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· That great literary and philosophical endowments may be possessed by persons, who, notwithstanding, have the most low and grovelling conceptions of almost every thing connected with religion, is evident from the sketch of the notions of heathen poets, legislators, and philosophers, which I presented you in an early part of these letters. From that sketch you will perceive, that while no subject in art or science was too lofty or too difficult for the acquisition of those men, no object in nature was too mean, no conception of the basest mind too obscene, to serve as objects of worship; there you saw that the men whose genius has been the admiration of all successive ages, whose performances as poets, orators, historians, logicians, or mathematicians, are, after the lapse of two thousand years, held up as models of excellence in their respective kinds, were yet sunk in such deplorable ignorance respecting religion, as to be not a whit superior to the most barbarous and uncultivated inhabitants of South America or New Zealand. But the reason is evident. The reception of religious truth depends on the state of the heart, not on that of the intellect; and hence it has happened that though some men of enlarged intellect have had hearts in which the seeds of grace could not germinate, there have been others, such as NEWTON and EULER, who, while they have extorted from nature some of her profoundest secrets, and have illuminated the world by their discoveries, have thought it their greatest honour to “ sit at the feet of Jesus,” to imbibe the pure spirit of the Gospel, and to be not merely philosophical, but practical and devotional, believers of Christianity, including its peculiarities and mysteries.
You will often, I doubt not, hear it asserted, notwithstanding the authority of the great names which I have already mentioned, that Christianity is a scheme fitted only to the measure of vulgar and uncultivated minds. Yet be assured that they who say so have deluded themselves, if they are in earnest, in thus dealing with you. Rather, consider it à vulgar and grovelling intellect, which suffers itself to be enchained and rivetted to the sensible objects immediately at hand. Why, indeed, should men be thus enchained when nature herself, rightly contemplated, invites them to expatiate? Look downwards, and your eyes have something immediate to fix upon; but can they penetrate beyond the surface? Why is all shut up in darkness beyond the mere shell and exterior, except to teach you that you should have your desires shut out from those earthly things which are under your feet, and hidden from your sight? If all the beauty and all the fruit of the earth are placed on its surface, should it not at least teach you, that though they may delight and interest you, you must guard against giving them (in comparison of eternal things) more than the surface of your affections ? And why is it that when you raise your head and direct your eyes upwards, they can expatiate without limit, but to teach you that the heavens are bright and transparent by day, and glitter with splendour by night, because the Great Spirit is beyond, who lets forth a little of his glory and majesty through those chinks and crannies of his pavilion, to remind you how vast should be your affections towards Him, how incessant your desires and aspirations towards his kingdom ?
You well know that, with respect to navigation and geography, we correct and fix our knowledge of the earth, by means of the heavenly bodies. Sun, moon, and stars, all lend their aid in determining the magniLude of the planet which we inhabit, and the relative positions and dimensions of the towns, cities, kingdoms, and empires upon its surface. If, then, the philosopher, the geographer, and the mariner, are thus compelled to consult heaven that they may know the earth, why should it be thought an indication of a vulgar and ignoble man to look to heaven to learn his nature, his duty, and his expectations ?
But this, you will probably be told, is to declaim on a bare analogy. Consider, then, since man is a moral and responsible, as well as a sinful, creature, whose future and everlasting condition will be influenced by the habitual tenor of his life and conduct; whether any pursuit can display a wisdom more becoming a cultivated mind than the acquisition of the means by which it may regain the forfeited favour of heaven, and the knowledge which connects time with eternal duration, and inspires a hope full of immortality ? All else, unless it be duly restricted to its appropriate use, and each subordinate to the nobler purposes of our entire nature,
is fume, “ Or emptiness, or fond impertinence; “ And renders us, in things that most concern, * Unpractis'd, unprepard, and still to seek.”-MILTON.
Then, as to intellectual pursuits, instead of concedo ing to the opposers of evangelical religion, that the topics which Christianity supplies, are adapted merely to vulgar and uncultivated minds, ought it not to be conceded to us that they furnish meditation for the most soaring and inquisitive genius; since they relate to matters of infinite moment, infinite dignity, infinitè diversity, manifesting the richness of infinite love. What a field for the noblest excursions ! . Eternal duration :-souls immortal, ranked in an order of existences from which none have the power to escape, and involving the awful alternatives of perennial bliss or endless woe :-other created beings, altogether spiritual, ever active, ever watchful; pure intelligences, from whom the secrets of “ the Ancient of Days," and the closets of men's hearts alone are hidden; always enjoying the beatific vision of their Maker, always de lighting to do his will, always « ministering to the “ heirs of salvation :”—other created beings, too, the powers of darkness, “ the spiritual wickednesses in “high places,” whose number, energy, and combination, constitute a dreadful world of evil spirits, conflicting where they prevail not, and often harassing those whom they are not permitted to overcome :-the Son of God, who was also Son of Man, he 6 who cometh « from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah,”— yielding himself to humiliation, derision, suffering, and death ;—then bursting the bonds of the tomb, triumphing not only over death, but over " him that « had the power of death, even the Devil ;” assuming his seat, as the KATHEMENOS, “ the Sitting One," at the right hand of his Heavenly Father, and seeing the promise verified, that “ God will make his foes his 6 footstool:"—the kingdoms of the world becoming the kingdoms of God, and of his Christ ;-holiness, happiness, and harmony, incessantly extending themselves, and vivifying the assurance that not one jot or one tittle of what the Scriptures announce shall fail. Topics such as these, far from being ignoble, far from tending to contract the mind, give it an expansion of occupation, and a glow of delight, which no discoverer but him who has found “ the Pearl of great price” can ever attain! “ Ye are come ” (says St. Paul, and invites us to unite with him in the sublime and extatic contemplation), “ye are come unto Mount Sion, and “ unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jeru“ salem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to “ the general assembly and church of the first-born “ which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge “ of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, " and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, “ and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better “ things than that of Abel. See, then, that you re“ fuse not him that speaketh ;” and suffer not men who, whatever may be their knowledge in other respects, are ignorant of religion, to tempt you to reject it.
I address you thus earnestly, my friend, because I know that they who misconceive the characteristics of our faith, in consequence underrate its mental tendencies ; not seeing that while it is more certain, more attainable, and more useful, than any other knowledge, it is also more refined and elevated; and because I am.