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2. Certain doctrines of the east, shadowing forth the peculiar doctrines of christianity, and manifestly derived from a common origin.
3. The state of the Jews in the east, confirming the truth of ancient prophecy.
4. The state of the Syrian Christians in the east, subsisting for many ages, a separate and distinct people, in the midst of the heathen world. i These subjects, however, we must notice very briefly.
1. Hindoo history illustrates the history of the gospel. There have lately been discovered in India certain Shanscrit writings containing testimonies of Christ. They relate to a prince who reigned about the period of the Christian era; and whose history, though mixed with fable, contains particulars which correspond, in a surprising manner, with the advent, birth, miracles, death and resurrection of our Saviour. The event mentioned in the words of the text, is exactly recorded; namely, That certain holy men, directed by a star, journeyed toward the west, where they beheld the incarnation of the Deity.*
These important records have been translated by a learned Orientalist, and he has deposited the originals among the archives of the Asiatic society. From these, and from other documents, he has compiled a work, entitled, “The History of the introduction of the Christian religion into India; its progress and decline;” and at the conclusion of the work he thus expresses himself: "I have written this account of christianity in India with the impartiality of an historian; fully persuaded that our holy religion cannot receive any additional lustre from it."
Thus far the history of the gospel.
2. We are now to notice certain doctrines of the east, shadowing forth the doctrines of christianity.
This testimony of the Hindoo writer accords with that of Chalcidius, the ancient commentator on Plato, who adds, “ That the infant Majesty being round, the wise men worshipped, and gave gifts suitable to so great a God,"
The peculiar doctrines of the Christian religion are so strongly represented in certain systems of the cast, that we cannot doubt the source whence they have been derived. We find in them the doctrines of the Trinity, of the incarnation of the Deity, of the atonement for sin, and of the influence of the Divine Spirit.
First, The, doctrine of the Trinity. The Hindoos believe in one God Brahma, the creator of all things: and yet they represent him as subsisting in three persons; and they worship one or other of these persons throughout every part of India. And what proves that they hold this doctrine distinctly, is, that their most ancient representation of the Deity is formed of one body and three faces. Nor are these representations confined to India alone; but they are to be found in other parts of the east.
Whence, then, my brethren, has been derived this idea of a triune God? If, as some allege, the doctrine of the Trinity among Christians be of recent origin, whence have the Hindoos derived it? When you
shall have read all the volumes of philosophy on the subject, you will not have obtained a satisfactory answer to this question.
Secondly, The doctrine of the Incarnation of the Deity. The Hindoos believe that one of the persons in their Trinity, (and that, too, the second person,) was “manifested in the flesh.” Hence their fables of the incarnations of Vishnoo, of which you may have heard. And this doctrine of the incarnation of the Deity, is found over almost the whole of Asia.
Whence, then, originated this idea, that "God should become man, and take our nature upon him?" The Hindoos do not consider that it was an angel merely that became man, but God himself. The in-, carnation of a God is a frequent theme of their discourse. We cannot doubt whence this peculiar tenet of religion has been derived. We must be
lieve that all the fabulous incarnations of the eastern mythology are derived from the real incarnation of the Son of God, or from the prophecies which went before it.
Thirdly, The doctrine of atonement for sin, by the shedding of blood. To this day in Hindostan, the people bring the goat or kid to the temple; and the priest sheds the blood of the inpocent victim. Nor is this peculiar to Hindostan. Throughout the whole east, the doctrine of a sacrifice for sin seems to exist in one form or other.
How is it then, that some of you in this country say that there is no atonement? For, eyer since "Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain;" ever since Noah, the father of the new world, "offered burnt-offerings on the altar," sacrifices have been offered up in alınost every nation; as if for a constant memorial before the world, that swithout shedding of blood there is no remission of sin."
Fourthly, The doctrine of the influence of the Spirit of God. In the most ancient writings of the Hindoos, some of which have been lately published, it is asserted that the “divine spirit, or light of holy knowledge,” influences the minds of men. And the man who is the subject of such influence is called the “man tivice born.” Many chapters are devoted to the duties, character and virtues of the man twice born."
It, then, in the very systems of the heathen world this exalted idea should have a place, how much more might we expect to find it in the revelation of the true God!
We could illustrate other doctrines by similar analogies, lid time permit. If these analogies were merely partial or accidental, they would be less important. But they are not casual; as every man who is versed in the holy scriptures and in oriental Mythology well knoșys. They are general and system
atic. Was it ever alledged that the light of Nature could teach such doctrines as tht se? They are all contrary to the light of Nature.
These, my brethern, are doctrines which exist at this day, in the midst of the idolatry and moral corruption of the heathen world. Every where there appears to be a counterfeit of thetrue doctrine. The inhabitants have lost sight of the only true God, and they apply these doctrines to their false gods. For these doctrines are relics of the first faith of the earth. They are, as you see, the strong characters of God's primary revelations to man, which neither the power of man, nor time itself, hath been able to destroy; but which have endured from age to age, like the works of nature, the moon and stars, which God hath created incorruptible.
3. Another circumstance, illustrating the truth of the Christian religion in the east, is the state of the Gews. The Jews are scattered over the whole face of the east, and the fulfilinent of the prophecies concerning them is far more evident in these regions than it is here among Christian nations.
The last great punishment of the Jewish people was inflicted for their last great crime--their shed. ding the blood of the Son of God! And this instance of divine indignation has been exhibited to all nations and all nations seem to have been employed by the ordinance of God in inflicting the punishment.
By express prophecy the Jews were sentenced to become the scorn and reproach of all people;" and a “proverb and by-word among all nations." Now, that their stubborn unbelief should be a reproach to them among Christian nations here in the west, is not so strange' that they should be a proverb and a byword among those who had heard the prophecy concerning them, is not so remarkable. "But to have seen them (as I have seen them) insulted and persecuted by the ignorant nations in the east; in the very words of the prophecy, trodden down of the heatha
én; trodden down by a people who never heard the name of Christ; and who, in fact, punished the Fews, without knowing their crime: this I say, hath appeared to me an awful completion of the divine sentence.
4. Another monument of the Christian religion in the east, is the state of the Syrian Christians, subsisting for many ages a separate and distant people, in the midst of the corruption and idolatry of the heathen world. They exist in the very midst of India, like the bush of Moses, burning and not consumed; surrounded by the enemies of their faith, and subject to their power, and yet not destroyed. There they exist, having the pure word of God in their hands, and speaking in their churches that same language which our Saviour himself spake in the streets of Jerusalem.
We may contemplate the history of this people existing so long in that dark region, as a type of the inextihguishable Light of Christ's religion: and in this sense it
may be truly said, “We have seen his Star in the East.”
The probable design of the Divine Providence, in preserving this people, appears to be this: That they should be a seed of the church in Asia: that they should be a special instrument for the conversion of the surrounding heathen, when God's appointed time is come; a people prepared for his service, as fellow-labourers with 'us; a people, in short, in the midst of Asia, to whom we can point as an evidence to the rest, of the truth and antiquity of the Christian faith.
And this shall suffice as to the testimonies of the general truth of christianity existing in the east.
II. We proposed, in the second branch of the discourse, to lay before you some evidences of the Di· vine power of the Christian religion exemplified in the east.