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74 JOYS OF HEAVEN.
can often rejoice in the humble confidence that his iniquity is pardoned, his guilt cleansed away in the blood of Christ; and thus he enjoys a true peace with God. Unable in his own strength to resist the temptations which surround him, or to walk in the path of virtue and religion, he has the happiness to know that the grace of Jesus Christ is "sufficient" for him— that the strength of his Redeemer is made perfect in weakness. Exposed as he may be to tribulation, persecution, or mental conflict, he still finds rest and satisfaction in submission to the divine will; and he is comforted by the settled conviction, that all these sufferings are the appointed means of his farther purification, and are intended to work out for him an incomparably greater joy. And to this conviction, is not unfrequently added that lively sense of the love of God, which spreads a delightful calm over his mind, and constitutes in itself the purest of pleasures. Lastly, for him, even death is deprived of much of its bitterness and terror; for he is in possession of satisfying reasons for regarding it as the termination of every pain and sorrow, and as the sure introduction to never-ending peace.
The happiness of the true Christian, therefore, even in the present life, is of a very solid character. It is such as results from having his sins forgiven, his spiritual wants supplied, his moral diseases cured, his pains alleviated, his doubts and fears removed, his soul brought into peaceful communion with God, and his hopes, at times, full of immortality. But our view of the happiness procured for individuals through the medium of vital Christianity, would be short and inadequate indeed, did we exclude from it that eternal felicity which is represented to us in the Scriptures as "the
CHRISTIANITY ORIGINALLY PERFECT, /i>
gift of God through Jesus Christ," and in comparison with which, both the sorrows and the joys of this period of our probation sink into an almost total insignificance.
We cannot, indeed, make a full use of this branch of the subject, in the present argument, because our assurance of the reality of this eternal future, depends on the truth of Christianity, and the truth of Christianity is that which we are endeavouring to prove. Nevertheless, it is a powerful internal evidence of the divine origin of our religion, that the heavenly state of being of which it offers us the prospect, is no elysium of sensual delights, such as superstition has proposed, and such as it is perfectly natural for man to imagine; but a condition of absolute purity and spirituality, which may be described as the proper element of the refined and renovated soul, and into which the soundest reason must convince us, that nothing defiled can ever enter.
Such then are the effects produced on mankind by vital Christianity; but before 1 venture on an inference from these premises, I must request the reader's attention to a few general observations, which have an important connection with our course of reasoning.
It is, in the first place, a very striking and confirming circumstance, that since its promulgation by Jesus Christ and his apostles, that efficacious moral system which we have now been contemplating, has continued absolutely unimproved. Sciences which originate in the exertion of human intellect, although probably never brought to perfection, are for the most part distinguished by a perpetual series of progressive changes. As the powers of man are enlarged by advancing cultivation, new discoveries
76 NOVEL, AND EXTRAORDINARY.
are added to those of former days, and every succeeding generation finds in the recorded acquirements of its predecessor, a vantage ground, by standing on which it is the better prepared for yet farther extending the boundaries of knowledge. But Christianity, regarded as a moral science, was promulgated by its divine author, and his disciples, in a condition of perfection. To all the ends which it proposes it is so exactly adapted, as to be capable (as far as appears to our limited comprehension) of no amelioration; and although probably there is no subject in the world which has engaged the thoughts of so great a multitude of wise and serious persons, including many gifted with the highest intellectual powers, this science alone of all those which have clajmed the attention of mankind, has continued entirely stationary. I am aware that the rude hand of man has at various times either disfigured the sacred fabric of divine truth by unsightly and incongruous ornaments, or has endeavoured to deprive it of some of those fundamental parts which are essential to its maintenance, but to that pure and unsophisticated system of religion and morals which was taught to mankind by the Son of God and his apostles, the profoundest reflections of a thousand uninspired theologians have added no improvement.
Perfect as original Christianity appears to be, considered as a system directed to the production of moral consequences, its perfection, in the second place, is the more indicative of a divine origin, because many of the parts of which it consists are extraordinary, novel, and such as human philosophy could never have imagined. This observation applies with irresistible force to the whole doctrine of the
UNIVERSALLY APPLICABLE 77
redemption of mankind, through the incarnation, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of the Son of God; as well as to the application of that doctrine to practice, through the medium of faith working hy love. These very leading points in oar religion are placed far beyond the compass of mere human invention; and yet they are the verv points on which, above all others, depends the practical and moral efficacy of the whole system.
Let it be observed, in the third place, that the Christian religion is of universal applicability to mankind. The conditions, characters, and circumstances of men, present to our view an almost infinite diversity; but to the spiritual wants of them all our religion is perfectly suited. Whatever station we may occupy, whatever natural character we may possess, and in whatever circumstances we may be placed, true Christianity will ever be effectual in bringing us to a real peace with God, and to a just performance of all our personal and relative duties.
If it be objected that even nominal Christianity is at present spread over a very limited portion of the globe, the reply is obvious—that thi9 fact is to be attributed, not to any want of suitableness in the Christian system to those who receive it, Tbut to extrinsic causes which have hitherto prevented or opposed its diffusion. And if it be farther objected, that even in those parts of the world which are denominated Christian, the vital influence of our religion is manifested in comparatively few persons, we may remark again, that this fact is plainly to be ascribed, not to any defect either in the love of God, or in the plan which he has instituted for our salvation, but to the depravity and perverseness of men, who
78 TO MANKIND.
are prone to cleave to their diseased condition, and who prefer darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. Were there discovered a medicine, which, when taken, would cure every species of bodily disease in men of every possible description, it is evident that this remedy might justly be described as of universal applicability to mankind, although it might be known only to a few, and although it might be heartily received and carried into use, by fewer still. Such a panacea for every species of spiritual disease, and for all sorts of men, is the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour; and although we may mourn over the obstructions which impede its dissemination, and counteract its influence, yet if we reason aright on the subject, we cannot refuse to allow that it is free from all exclusive tendencies—that in its scope, purpose, and practical operation, it is entirely and equally adapted to the whole human race.
As it is true, in the last place, that the practical consequences detailed in the present essay, never fail to be the result of genuine Christianity, so it is also true, to a very great extent, that they are the result of Christianity alone. Evident it must be to everv candid and serious observer, that neither heathenism, nor mahometanism, can pretend with the least colour of truth to the production of these admirable effects; for the former has been very generally accompanied by the grossest absurdities and corruptions; and the latter is so far from being morally curative in its tendency, that under particular circumstances, it openly fans both the violent and the voluptuous passions of our fallen nature. Neither can we perceive in the comparatively pure religion of the Jews (now they have rejected their own Messiah) the practic.il opera