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ments. But to applaud virtue, and to wish to deprive it of its highest sanction, its most powerful stimulus, and its most perfect exemplification, is surely an attempt not less absurd than profligate. For,

For, supposing such a person had not only unhappily persuaded himself that Christianity was not true, but that he was even well founded in that persuasion, I should still contend, that upon his own principles he was bound to respect it, and not to endeavour to make proselytes to his opinion. For though he should deny Christianity to be true, he could not so much as pretend to prove that it is false. He must content himself with refusing to believe it, as a native of a southern climate might refuse to believe that water, in our northern latitudes, ever acquires the strength and consistency of ice. The reasons for disbelief in both cases, when fairly examined, would appear to be nearly the same; neither would have had any experience of the matters in question, and both would be unwilling to credit the testimony by which they are supported.

But, rejecting Christianity, has he any better religion to substitute in its place ? So far from it, the little that he believes, which has

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any truth and any value in it, is borrowed, whether he knows it or not, from Christianity; and without its assistance, would be found very difficult of proof. He professes, for instance, to believe in one God; but how can he establish that first, almost that sole article of his creed, but by the aid of the Jewish and the Christian Scriptures ? He is also the advocate of virtue, and the enemy of vice. But upon what solid ground, except he advances a step farther, and believes not only that God is, but that he is a rewarder of the one, and a punisher of the other !--a truth of which Revelation alone can afford him a full conviction. I contend, therefore, that even he who doubts or disbelieves the evidence of Christianity should, notwithstanding, if he be a wise and good man, rejoice in its success, because much of it is, even according to him, a republication of natural religion "," because it lays the greatest stress upon many virtues, which he professes to admire, as conducive to the welfare of society; because, in common candour he must allow, that he is as liable to error in rejecting it, as others are in receiving it; and

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do go to this extent, I can only say, that in the judgment of very able and good men, they are not to be so interpreted. They are to be considered merely as repeating the declaration of our Saviour, as recorded in the sixteenth chapter of St. Mark. They must be understood as assuming the truth of Christianity in general, and of the particular doctrines laid down in the creed. And

upon tion, they pronounce that those who reject them will suffer for so doing, though neither the nature, nor the degree of suffering, are to be considered as defined by the terms employed. Nothing is wanted, in the judgment of a very judicious writer, to remove all difficulty and uneasiness respecting this creed, than to qualify and restrain it by the plainest and most self-evident of all moral propositions : • No man is punishable for rejecting falshood ?." Whilst, therefore, we, who believe the Christian Revelation to be true, and our ideas of it to be the most correct, cannot, sup

that it can be rejected with impunity; I hope there are few of us who would not

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* Hey's Lectures, vol. ii. p.


nent writer of the seventeenth century, John Hales, of Eton, who, as Lord Clarendon informs us, “would often say, that he would renounce the Church of England, if it obliged him to believe that any other Christians would be damned 1." Nor can this be imputed to excess of liberality, or culpable indifference to right or wrong, in matters of religion. His history completely refutes such an imputation. Intolerance is a very questionable test of sincerity. I do not know that it is at all true, that the latter quality abounds most in that Church, in which the former chiefly prevails. But I will not pursue this reflection, because it would divert me from that topic upon which it is my object today to fix our undivided attention, the joy which our holy religion is calculated to excite in our hearts.

Surely it is not without reason, that we indulge at this season in more than ordinary feelings of content and satisfaction. Is it doubtful that the many customs which pre-vail of a benevolent character, at this period of the year, are to be ascribed to the influence

1 Clarendon's Life, vol. i.



of the faith which we profess? Is it not natural that we should be grateful for the blessings which it imparts, and anxious to diffuse them? Who can live in a Christian community without being sensible of its inestimable value to society ? Who cannot trace in his particular condition, his purest happiness to that source ? What was it, which (humanly speaking) occasioned its speedy triumph over heathen superstition ? Not surely the novelty, nor the sublimity of its creed, but the altered lives, manners, and dispositions of its con

The excellence of the Christian morality has always been esteemed, not only a most valuable part of the religion, but also a powerful argument of its truth. Chillingworth ', a writer, who, in some respects, is deserving of our attention, has not scrupled to say

“ For my part I profess, if the doctrine of Scripture were not as good, and as fit to come from the fountain of goodness, as the miracles by which it was confirmed were great, I should want one main pillar of my faith ?.” And to come nearer to our own


See his character, as drawn by Lord Clarendon.
Religion of Protestants, p. 61.


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