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The natural man loves the world and himself too well to admit, whatever he may pretend or profefs, affections so liberal, sublime, and disinterested. He loves MAMMON more than God; and as for the love of his fellow-creatures, he wears a false appearance of it, a studied politeness, courteoufness, and affability, for the sake of availing himself of their assistance in gratifying avarice, ambition, and the love of pleasure; but he hates, envies, or utterly neglects, all who contribute neither to his sordid gain, nor to his personal gratification. Grace alone can soften and liberalize his contracted bosom. Grace alone can render him sincerely, secretly, and impartially virtuous; and the best Christian is the best member of civil society.
Let him who doubts the excellence of Christian morality, read our Saviour's sermon on the mount, with the discourses formed upon it by Blair *, Blackall, and other great divines of the English church. He will be truck with its pre-eminent beauty and utility. Indeed the whole body of English sermons founded on the gospel, exhibits a fyftem of morality which the world never saw before, and which would never have existed without the evangelical code. I earnestly recommend to general perusal Bishop Gastrell's little book, intitled, Christian Institutes. Seneca, Epictetus, and all the pagan moralists, muft hide their diminished heads on the comparison with the Chriftian PhiloSophy there exhibited.
* James Blair, M. A. President of William and Mary College in America. His sermons were first published by himself in 1722, and afterwards, in 1740, by the very learned Dr. Waterland. See parti. cularly the paraphrase, in the first volume, on Matt. y. vi. vii.
The true Genius and Spirit of Christianity productive
of a certain Tenderness of Conscience, or Feeling of Rectitude, more favourable to right Conduct, than any Deductions of unalisted Reafon, or heathen Morality. A
MAN, rightly disposed by the influence of ge
nuine Christianity, becomes a law* unto himself, in all circumitances and situations. A DIVINE TEMPER, superinduced by divine energy on the heart, produces right conduct, just as a tree grafted with a kindly scion, brings forth fruit both delicious and falutary, under the natural operation of showers and sunshine.
A true Chriftian has constantly impressed upon his mind a sense of God's presence, and a conviction that he is responsible to his father in heaven for all his conduct. This keeps him in awe, mixed with love. He fears to do wrong, not with a servile fear, but an affectionate reverence for his all-powerful friend, who has shewn him great favour, and at the same time required, in return for it, obedience to his injunctions, as a condition of its continuance. He loves God from his heart; an affection, which comprehends in it the love of every thing that is good in moral conduct, every thing pure and holy in his own person, every thing beneficent to society.
* " God," says Dr. John Jeffery, “ might have delivered the “ doctrine of our religion, in a body of laws, like that of Jus« TINIAN." He probably would have done so, if he had intended the gospel to be a complete code of moral law; but he evidently intended that a LIVING TEACHER, even the SPIRIT, should accompany the historical gospel in all ages, and supply all our wants of instruction according to the occasion.
The residence of the Holy Ghost in the Christian's heart increases his moral sensibility. He fees with greater acuteness the good and beautiful * in behaviour; he feels with additional vivacity the emotions of benevolence. It gives him pain, it does violence to his very nature, thus sublimed, to act basely, unjustly, unkindly. He knows that the divine principle within him will not inhabit a polluted shrine; but will take offence † and depart, if the temple be profaned by immorality.
Casuistry, or long and abstruse reasonings on the moral fitness or unfitness of actions, are totally unneceffary to the man whom the heavenly teacher has instructed. His determinations admit not such cold delay or doubtful hesitation. His heart turns, like the needle to the pole, with tremulous, yet certain propensity, to the point of rectitude. From the infirmity of human pature, and the violence of temptation, he may decline a little to the right or to the left; but the attraction to Heaven and virtue ftill acts upon and prevents his total aberration. Touched by Heaven, he acquires a kind of polarity, which causes him to point thither without
any inclination to deviate. Hence he is above the schools of the heathen moralists 1
He displays that superiority which
+ " Res delicata eft Dei Spiritus."-The Spirit of God is delicate, i. e. easily disgutted with moral impurity.
TERTULL. I “ As Christianity has all that is good in morality, so it far ex" ceeds it, and accordingly our preaching should be above the rate of " moral philofophy. Our divine orator should fetch not only bis " speculations and notions, but his materials for practice from the " evangelical writings. This he must do, or else he is NO MINISTER “ OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. There is plenty of excellent " moral discourses from the pulpit, urged with great art and vigour; 6 but notwithítanding this, there never was leis morality in men's « Fives and actions." Dr. EDWARDS's Preacher, vol. i. p. 82.
Jesus Christ moft juftly claims over Socrates. Yet he may enjoy the beautiful compositions of the ancients, if his education has enabled him to understand them. He may be pleased and instructed with their fine obfervations on life and manners, and the great advances they made in ethics, by the light of nature. But though he may derive great benefit from them, though he may be both informed and advised by them, yet he sees them defective *, and finds that they are not abfolutely neceffary to accomplish the Christian, who, by the written word of fcripture, accompanied by the Spirit's miniftration, becomes sufficiently enlightened for the practice of the purest morality, and wife unto salvation. By Chriftian Philosophy, he experiences not only illumination, but affiftance : he is taught the way that he fhould go, and led by the hand in his journey.
I conclude, then, from this tender sensibility to right and wrong, and this propensity to kindness, which the supernatural agency of the Spirit causes in the heart, that true Chriftianity, such as is founded on the vital influence of the Spirit, makes the best moralifts, the most useful and worthiest members of society. And as Christian Philosophy is attainable by ALL, and not confined to the rich or the learned, it appears to me, that even politicians, who consider only the prosperity and peace of nations, would evince the highest wisdom, in first cultivating it themselves, and then encouraging it, by all prudent modes, among the people. What a feeble fyftem is that of the French Theophilanthropists divested, as they pretend it is, of evangelical authority !
* Life and immortality are brought to ligbt by the gospel. There is also in the gospel, the perfect example of Jesus Chriit; and example teaches better than precept. They who preach merely in the manner of Cicero and Antoninus are the apostles of Deism.
When a whole community shall become, by the preaching * of evangelical doctrines, and the example of the great, subject to the power of conscience, warmed with the love of God, and all mankind,“ just and good, true and sincere, meek, “ humble, tender-hearted, and compassionate, “ content, temperate, pure, and heavenly-minded, " then will men become each a law to himself,” and all civil government will be greatly facilitated, while the general happiness is fecured without wars and fightings, without tumult and discord, without capital punishments, without any of that severe coercion, which creates partial evil for the sake of the general security.
Such a state, it will be said, is chimerical and Utopian. I fear, in the present corruptions of Christianity, it may be visionary. But every approach to it is desirable, as it is an approach to the happiness and perfection to which man is formed to aspire ; and therefore, it will behove all those who poffefs power, not for fordid purposes, but the general good, to hasten and extend the reign of grace. They should say with heart as well as voice, looking unto Jesus, THY KINGDOM COME.
* « How dom,” says Dr. John Edwards, “ are the people in“ formed about the true nature of regeneration, or the new birth? " How seldom is the absolute neceffity of the knowledge of Christ “ as a mediator, insisted upon ? It is rare to hear the preacher speak « of and maintain the absolute necessity of being supernaturally en“ lightened, in order to the right and saving understanding of the “ things of God? Nay, how often do we hear the contRARY? 66 ****, I have known that when some of those doctrines have been « discoursed of by one in the pulpit, it hath been said that he preacbed “ like a Presbyterian. But if this be to preach like a Presbyterian, I “ pray heartily that the number of Presbyterians may increase more more ;
and if this be to preach like a Presbyterian, then all our BISHOPS and our UNIVERSITIES, and all our DIVINES were “ Presbyterians, in Queen Elizabeth and King James the Firt’s days, “ and afterwards ; for no man can have the face to deny that these “ were the doctrines that they openly professed and maintained.”
EDWARDS's Preacber, vol. 1. p. 44.