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“ Take heed how you follow the guidance of your
weak reason.” The reason of man is acknowledged to be weak when compared with the intelligence of superior beings. But, whatever its weakness may be, it becomes us with gratitude to follow it as our guide ; since in a gloomy night it is better to profit from the smallest taper that can be procured, than obstinately to shut our eyes and walk at random. If believers prefer the revelation of Christ before the philosophy of infidels, it is because the most enlightened reason influences their choice.
The true believer is not afraid of pleading against modern philosophers before the tribunal of reason. accuse me," he may say, “of superstition ; because, in pursuing those honours, riches, and pleasures, which are eternal, I have chosen the rough and uncomfortable path of piety. But while I act thus, I act in no less conformity to the principles of reason than the man who, to expel a sweet poison, receives a bitter antidote, and cheerfully submits to a disagreeable regimen till he is restored to perfect health. If the sacrifice of a few trifling enjoyments for the present will secure to me the possession of everlasting felicity, I do but imitate the prudent husbandman who deprives himself to-day of a few bushels of grain, that, after a few months of patient expectation, he may reap from his trivial loss an abundant harvest. And is it unreasonable in me to adopt such a mode of conduct; especially when the sweet hope of promised blessings affords me even now a joy as solid and constant, as yours is transitory and vain ?"
Ye men of boasted wisdom ! we dare assert, that the secret springs of your morality are weak and gross in comparison with ours. You maintain that, in order to bind a rational creature to the practice of morality, nothing further is requisite, than the consideration of his own interests. You affirm, moreover, with equal confidence, that all attempts to urge mankind to the exercise of virtue, by the consideration of evangelical motives, is but depending upon the force of ties which are too feeble to be binding. But you perceive not that the method upon which you proceed, with so much self-approbation, is en
tirely unworthy of true moralists; since it merely opposes one evil, by means of another full as detestable, in giving that to pride which it wrests from other vicious propensities. And you, undiscerning instructer of Emilius and Sophia! you who say in your confession of faith, “Unknowing how to determine, I neither admit revelation, nor reject it, rejecting only the obligation to receive it ;" if have removed those powerful motives to true virtue which are drawn from the gospel, what have you given us in exchange for them? “Love, that you may be loved again. Become amiable, that you may be happy. Make yourself esteemed, that you may be obeyed. What greater felicity can a noble soul possess than that which flows from the pride of virtue, joined with beauty ?" How puerile and insufficient are these motives, when compared with those which the gospel presents! Leading mankind to virtue by such a route as this, is it not to inspire them, at once, with all a pharisee's pride, and a Jezebel's vanity ?
When we draw a veil over the sublime objects of faith, and place before men the mere consideration of some present advantage, in order to influence their conduct, then we actually treat the rational part of the creation as we are accustomed to deal with the most brutish animals. Behold that swine making up to a heap of corn.
Throw but a single handful of that heap in his way, and he will pass on no further; since fifty grains of corn, scattered immediately before his face, will attract him more forcibly than as many bushels piled up at a distance. Were it possible to make him an offer of all the harvests in the universe, after a single hour; yet he would not sacrifice, for them all, the poor enjoyment of the present moment. He who thus fixes his attention upon temporal and sensible objects forgets that his soul is immaterial and immortal. He who cannot be engaged to the practice of virtue, but by means of such unworthy motives, may be said to infuse morality in the cup of Circe, lest he should be constrained to receive it at the hand of Christ.
Why are infidels and unstable Christians observed to fall before temptation ? The only reason that can be given is, that, being affected in too lively a manner with the things that are immediately before them, they are in no condition to contemplate those objects which are more remote, of how great importance soever they may be. Hence, the inestimable objects of faith appear to them, as the fixed stars discover themselves to the vulgar, despoiled of their real magnitude and glory, and apparently of too little consequence to merit much attention. With the sincere Christian, the case is wholly different. His faith, which is the gift of God, may be compared to a divine telescope, by which the most distant objects are brought within his ken. And of this sacred help he happily avails himself, till, wholly certified of the nature and importance of celestial things, he necessarily acquires ideas suitable to so grand a discovery. Observe here the ground of St. Paul's definition of faith. Eph. ii. 8; Heb. xi. 1. Destitute of the same assistance, what wonder is it that the infidel should remain a perfect stranger to the Christian's sacred views and exalted sentiments! He foolishly rests contented with the naked eye of his reason, regardless of that ignorance and those prejudices with which it is too frequently obscured. Thus, self-deluded, he despises the divine instrument above described, and scoffs at those who are known to use it; just as the illiterate were formerly accustomed to set at nought the most profound astronomers, and to look with derision
their mysterious apparatus.
As to the power of this faith, by which alone any spiritual discovery can be made, it is too wonderful to be credited either by the ignorant or the impious. It "removes mountains;" and, to the possessor of it, “nothing is impossible." Matt. xvii. 20. It affords the believer a ”
a perfect“ victory” over the present world, 1 John v. 4, by putting into his hand a “ shield” which is impenetrable to “ all the fiery darts of the wicked.” Eph. vi. 16. Here is the Christian's security! Behind this buckler of celestial temper, he remains in undisturbed tranquillity, while the incredulous philosopher, together with the abandoned sensualist, are hurling against it the feeble darts of ridicule and malice.
It must be acknowledged that many excellent precepts of morality are found in the Alcoran, and in the works of modern philosophers; but it must be asserted, at the same time, that the enemies of Christ are chiefly indebted to revelation for every just conception of religious truth. The authors of the Alcoran, of Emilius, and the Philosophical Dictionary, before ever they began to dogmatize, were apprized, that there is a God, whom it is our duty to love above all things, and who has commanded us to love our neighbour as ourselves. It is, therefore, matter of little surprise, that a lovely sentiment of this kind should here and there brighten a page of their gloomy volumes. Their false coin could never have become current in the world, unless they had artfully mingled with it some little quantity of the pure gold of scriptural truth.
We shall conclude this chapter with a beautiful passage from Tertullian, in which he points out the difference between a true Christian and a philosopher so called. After having spoken of the vices with which the Greek philosophers were infected, he makes the following reply to a very common objection:- “ It is objected, that some also among us are guilty of violating the laws of virtue. But it must be remembered that such offenders pass no longer with us for Christians; while, among you, after the commission of many vicious actions, philosophers still preserve their reputation, and continue to be had in honour. What resemblance then is there between a Christian and a philosopher ? The one is a disciple of Greece, the other of heaven. The one seeks to establish a fair reputation, the other aspires to work out his salvation. The one speaks admirable words, the other performs good actions. The one destroys, and the other builds up. deals in error, and the other in truth." Apolog., chap. 46.
The one CHAPTER. II.
THE DOCTRINES OF NATURAL RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY
ARE INSUFFICIENT TO PRODUCE TRUE CHARITY IN THE
The doctrines of natural religion, such as the being of a God, an overruling providence, and a judgment to come, are the first doctrines of the gospel; but, hitherto, they have never been found sufficient to lead men into the love and practice of solid virtue.
As the earth, deprived of its primitive fecundity, requires not only the genial influence of the sun, but must be enriched and assisted by many other means, in order to recover its lost fertility; so the truths of natural religion can never restore the degenerate soul to its lost perfection, without the powerful assistance of a revealed gospel. On this account, the Father of mankind has condescended to instruct us in doctrines more efficacious than those which unassisted nature can discover, and abundantly better suited to our weakness; that the tree of morality, having more numerous and vigorous roots, might be assisted to throw out fruit of a more exquisite kind, and in greater abundance, than it was formerly known to produce. “What the law," says St. Paul, “could not do," the natural or Mosaic law, “in that it was weak through the flesh," that is, our corrupted nature, which stands in need of greater helps than those which the law can afford, “God, sending his own Son, condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,” by a power derived from him. Rom. viii. 3, 4. Hence this promised Saviour was spoken of as " the desire of all nations." Hag. ii. 7. And hence that public declaration of Christ concerning the nature of his mission to the children of men: “I am come that they might have rife, and that they might have it more abundantly." John
Wit', ut revelation, we are left a prey to the most cruel uncertainty. The Almighty created man that he might