« PreviousContinue »
made nonex, a strong presumption that the noblest efforts of the mind of man, unassisted by revelation, were unequal to the task.
"Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, carried their researches into divine truths, as far as human genius alone could penetrate. But these were bright constellations which appeared singly in several centuries, and with all their knowledge, were very deficient in true theology.
"From the visible works of the creation, they traced the being and principal attributes of the Creator; but the relation which his being and attributes bear to man, they little understood.
"Of piety, or benevolence, they had scarcely any sense; nor could they form any mode of worship worthy of the purity and perfeétion of the Divine nature: They sometimes talked of virtue carrying men to heaven, and placing them among the gods; but, by this virtue, they meant only the invention of arts, or feats of arms: for with them, heaven was open only to legislators and conquerors, the civilizers and destroyers of man
The world by wisdom knew not God.' 1 Corin. i. 21. 'They became vain in their imagination, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools; and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Rom. i. 21, 22, 23.
kind. This was the summit of religion in the most polished nations of the world.
"At this time Christianity broke forth from the east, like a rising sun, and dispelled this universal darkness which obscured every part of the globe; and even at this day prevails in all those remoter regions, to which its salutary influence has not yet extended. From all those which it has reached, it has banished all these enormities, and introduced a more rational devotion, and purer morals. It has taught doctrines which human reason never could have discovered, but which, when discovered, coincide with it, and are confirmed by it; and which, though beyond the reach of all the learning and penetration of Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero, are now laid open to the eye of every peasant and mechanic, with the bible in his hand.
“These are all plain facts too glaring to be contradicted; and therefore, whatever we may think of the authority of these books, of the relations which they contain, or of the inspiration of their authors, of these facts, no man, who has eyes to read, or ears to hear, can entertain any doubt.
"When there is proof of the discovery of a system of theology so sublime, and of ethics so perfect, as to have excluded every false virtue,
however universally admired; and to have admitted every true virtue, though despised and ridiculed by all the rest of the world; when there are so many incontestable proofs that to the knowledge of this religion, the penetration and learning of the sages of Greece had not attained; but that nevertheless, in the course of a few years, it was spread over most parts of the then known world, in opposition to the interests, pleasures, ambition, prejudices, and the reason of mankind; that it triumphed over the power of princes, the intrigues of state, the force of custom, the blindness of zeal, the influence of priests, the arguments of orators and philosophers, even when literature was in its meridian lustre; and that this system was discovered by the son of a carpenter, propagated by poor fishermen and mechanics, who followed him; that these were illiterate persons, and though all of them Galileans, yet spake they with other tongues; insomuch that Parthians, Medes, and Elamites, the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and Judea; in Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Lybia, about Cyrene; and strangers of Rome, Jews, and Proselytes, Cretes, and Arabians; all of them, of these different nations, heard them speak; every man in his own tongue, wherein he was born, heard them declare
the wonderful works of God; Acts ii. 8—11. ; if in opposition to facts so numerous and astonishing, there are persons who will not believe that the disciples of Jesus were endued with supernatural powers, they must be as wilfully blind as those, who, closing their eyes to the sun in meridian splendour, will not admit that it shines at noonday. On such, all reasoning must be misapplied, and every argument thrown away.
"The primitive converts to the Christian religion, were exalted to such a degree of piety, charity, temperance, patience, and resignation, that they seem literally to have been regenerated, and purified from all the imperfections of human nature; and to have pursued such a constant and uniform course of devotion, innocence, and virtue, as in the present times many are scarcely willing to allow to be attainable. If it is asked, why should not the belief of the same religion now produce the same effects? the answer is short-Because it is not practised. The most sovereign medicine can perfect no cure, if the patient will not be persuaded to make use of it."
The wonderful power by which the propagation of the gospel was accompanied, was intended to demonstrate to all the world, the. divinity of its origin; that mankind might be induced through all generations, to confide in
the sufficiency of the grace of God to bring salvation to them who attend to its teachings; but if mankind are not willing to learn of it, they can never be proficients in the school of Christ.
Soame Jenyns asserts: "Nothing has so much contributed to corrupt the true spirit of the Christian institution, as the partiality contracted by education for the manners of pagan antiquity; from whence we learn to adopt every idea which is repugnant to it; to applaud false virtues which that disavows; to be guided by laws of honour which that abhors; to imitate characters which that detests; and to behold heroes, patriots, conquerors, and suicides, with admiration, whose conduct that utterly condemns.
"From a coalition of these opposite principles, was generated that monstrous system of cruelty, and benevolence; of barbarism, and civility; of rapine, and justice; of fighting, and devotion; which harrassed the world for several centuries with crusades, holy wars, knight errantry, and single combats; and even still retains influence enough, under the name of honour, to defeat the most beneficent ends of this holy institution.
"The contrast between the Christian and all other institutions, religious or moral, previously to its appearance, is sufficiently evident; and