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CHRISTIANITY UNRIVALLED. 79
tion of those powerful principles, by which many of them were once enabled to glorify the God of their fathers, and to exalt among men tbe standard of true piety and virtue. In reference to that remarkable people, whatever allowance we may be disposed to make for them, it is impossible not to perceive, that the stream of vital religion has left its old channel dry, and has now diffused itself among the many Gentile nations, which have received the Gospel of their Redeemer.
It is by no means my intention to assert, that in the various moral and religious systems with which I am now comparing Christianity, there is to be found no portion of truth or rectitude. It is to be remembered, that mankind enjoyed an original revelation from God, of which faint traces are still very generally to be observed—that the spirit of the Lord, by which his law is written on the hearts of his creatures, is not confined in its operations, and may communicate light to the souls of men, independently of any external revelation—and lastly, that where Christianity is not received, it may still have obtained an indirect influence, and may be the real source of many correct and useful sentiments.
On these several grounds, therefore, we are not to be surprised, when we trace among some uncivilized heathen tribes, a plain recognition of the existence and unity of the Deity; nor when among the most corrupt idolaters we mark an acknowledgment of sin, and a pervading sense of their need of an atonement; nor when in the pages of ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, we meet with some time theology, and with many moral principles which Christians approve as their own; nor when Ave find modern infidels pro
80 CHRISTIANITY UNRIVALLED.
claiming a pure theism, and Mahomet and his followers teaching the unity of God, and the doctrine of future retribution.
In all these cases, the actual moral effect produced, will be found to bear an analogy to the proportions of truth and error, of good and evil, of which the several systems in question are composed. In the purest of them, such as those of the ancient Platonic philosophers, and of the untutored American Indians, there may, in my opinion, be observed no unambiguous traces of a certain measure of divine illumination; bat still there is a total absence of the grand peculiarities of the Gospel, and a corresponding incompleteness in the moral result. In mahometanism and in modern infidelity, as well as in Judaism as it is now maintained, there is an intentional and determined omission of those grand peculiarities, and the moral result appears to be this—that notwithstanding the profession of a belief in one God, the heart is not mended, but generally continues in its original condition of barrenness, hardness, and corruption. Lastly, with respect to the gross and varied idolatry which prevails over so large a portion of the globe, it appears to be productive of no other moral consequence, than that of a deep aud almost universal degradation. .
Now this is the strength and perfection of Christianity, that it omits every thing to be found in other moral and religious systems, which has any evil tendency; recognizes, embodies, and completes, all that is really good, and adds certain vast particulars of truth, absolutely peculiar to itself, by means of which it operates with a force altogether new on the souls of men, and obtains a moral efficacy for the production
of piety, virtue, and happiness, which is impeded by no intrinsic counteraction—which is at once unrivalled and unalloyed.
In reverting to the heads of the present essay, we are to recollect that we have been considering the effects produced in real believers by pure Christianity, considered as a whole, consisting of both preceptive and doctrinal parts. These effects are as follows— that unregenerate man who is ever prone to be ungodly and immoral, and is therefore ever liable to be miserable, is so transformed, that he is brought into the pious exercise of those dispositions and duties which are required towards the Almighty—that in his personal character, and in his conduct towards his fellow creatures, he becomes conformed to the moral image of his Creator, in imitation of the perfect pattern presented to him in Christ—and lastly, that he is introduced to substantial happiness, and to the hope of such a heavenly inheritance, as perfectly consists with the purity and perfection of God. We have, moreover, found occasion to remark that Christianity, regarded as a moral science, was revealed by our Lord and his apostles, in so perfect a state, as never to have received, since that period, the slightest improvement—that its characteristic features are, in various respects, novel, and such as human philosophy could not have imagined—that however opposed and obstructed by circumstances, it is of universal applicability to mankind—and finally, that on a fair comparison with other schemes of religion, it is found to contain all which they have of good, to reject all which they have of evil, and in point of moral efficacy to stand unequalled and alone.
Now what is the inference which the candid and
serious reasoner must deduce from these premises? In my opinion it is clearly this: that so extraordinary, so efficacious, so incomparable, a system—a system which in its practical operation, is found to be entirely worthy of God, and exactly adapted to men, cannot be of earthly origin—that to suppose it to have been invented by a few illiterate fishermen, is to insinuate a proposition, than which nothing more monstrous has ever been palmed on human credulity—that in point of fact, like the beautiful and perfect works of nature, it can justly be ascribed only to the power, the wisdom, and the love, of the Deity himself.
Thus do we once more arrive at the sound conclusion, that Christianity is the religion of God. And since it is impossible that the God of all truth, in effecting the moral reformation as well as the happiness of his reasonable creatures, should employ a mere illusion, we may rest unalterably assured that Christianity, although it may contain some mysteries which we have no capacities to fathom, is true—that its doctrines are real, its hopes substantial, its promises sure, its joys unfading and eternal.
ON THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE HOLY SCRIPTURES.
Satisfied, as I trust we now are, of the divine origin of that holy religion of which the Law was the introduction, and the Gospel the perfect revelation, it still remains for us to examine a very important question; namely, whether the record of our religion, contained in the Old and New Testaments, is also to be regarded as of divine origin—in other words, whether the Holy Scriptures were given by inspiration of God?
It is much to be regretted, that some persons who acknowledge the truth of Christianity, nevertheless appear to entertain unsatisfactory views, or are at least perplexed with considerable doubt and obscurity, in reference to this subject. For my own part, I have long been persuaded that the important question now proposed may safely be answered, as the generality of Christian theologians have long been accustomed to answer it, with a clear affirmative. The grounds of that persuasion, I shall endeavour concisely to unfold in the present essay.
We are, in the first place, in possession of a strong antecedent probability of the divine authority of the Scriptures. The principal object of the revelations