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fore, remember, that, being born under the dispensation of his gospel, we have, from our earliest years, enjoyed the best means of acquiring wisdom, virtue, and happiness, the lineaments of the image of God. We have been called to aspire after an exaltation to the nature and felicity of the Almighty exhibited to mortal eyes in the man Christ Jesus, to fire us with the noblest ambition. His gospel teaches us that we are made for eternity; and that our present life is to our future existence, as infancy is to manhood: but as in the former, many things are to be learned, many hardships to be endured, many habits to be acquired, and that by a tedious course of exercises, which in themselves though painful, and possibly useless to the child, yet are necessary to fit him for the business and enjoyments of manhood'; so while we remain in this infancy of human life, things are to be learned, hardships to be endured, and habits to be acquired by a laborious course of discipline, which, however painful, must be undergone, because necessary to fit us for the employments and pleasures of our riper existence in the realms above. Enflamed, therefore, with the love of immortality and its joys, let us submit ourselves to our heavenly Teacher, and learn of him those graces which alone can render life pleasant, death desirable, fill eternity with ecstatic joys, and the tongues and hearts of the blessed with a song of triumph in honour of their Deliverer.
Observations on the Doctrine of our blessed Lord and
Saviour : The Excellency of the Religion he enforced and inculcated: And the Reasonableness of, and
Pleasure resulting from a Christian Life. We cannot more properly conclude our history of the life of the blessed Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, nor place the great doctrines taught by the benevolent Son of the Most High, in a more conspicuous light, than by removing a few prejudices which some, we fear too many, have formed against the religion of the holy Jesus, and shew that his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
There have not, perhaps, been greater enemies to the progress of religion, than those who delineate it in a gloomy and terrifying form ; nor any guilty of a more injurious calumny against the gospel, than those who represent its precepts as rigorous impositions and unnecessary restraints. True religion is the perfection of human nature, and the foundation of uniform exalted pleasure, of public order and private happiness. Christianity is the most excellent and the most
. useful institution, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come; it is the voice of reason; it is also the language of Scripture; the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. Prov. iii. 17. And our blessed Saviour himself assures us, that his precepts are easy, and the burden of his religion light and pleasant.
The religion which Christ came into this lower world to establish, is a rational service, a worship in spirit and in truth, a worship worthy of the majesty of the Almighty to receive, and of the nature of man to pay. One of its important branches is natural religion, inforced by additional motives and new discove
ries: its positive rights are few, of plain and easy sig. nificancy, and manifestly adopted to establish a sense of moral obligations. The gospel places religion not in abstruse speculation and metaphysical subtilties; not in outward shew and tedious ceremony; not in superstitious austerities and enthusiastic vision, but in purity of heart, and holiness of life. The sum of our duty, according to our great Master himself, consists in the love of God, and of our neighbour : according to St. Paul, in denying ungodliness and worldly lusts ; and in living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world : according to St James, in visiting the fatherless and widows in affliction, and in keeping our. selves unspotted from the world. This is the constant strain and tenor of the gospel; this it inculcates most earnestly, and on this it lays the greatest stress, as most conducive to true and substantial happiness.
If it be asked, whether the Christian system is only a republication of the law of nature, or merely a refined system of morality? We reply, No, certainly;
' it is a great deal more. It is an act of
grace, a stupendous plan of Providence, designed for the recovery of mankind from a state of degradation and ruin, to the favour of the Almighty, and to the hopes of a happy immortality through a Mediator. Under this dispensation, true religion consists in a repentance towards God, and in faith in the Lord Jesus CHRIST, as the person appointed by the supreme authority of heaven and earth, to reconcile apostate man to his offended Creator, as a sacrifice for sin ; our vital head, and governing Lord. This is the religion of Christians; and what hardship, what exaction is there in all this? Surely none : nay, the practice of religion is much easier than the servitude of sin, which at best is the vilest drudgery, and yields the worst kind of wages.
All will readily agree, that our rational powers are impaired, and the soul weakened by sin; the animal passions are strong and apt to oppose the dictates of reason ; objects of sense, make powerful impressions on the mind; we are in every situation surrounded with many snares and temptations : in such a disordered state of things, to maintain a course of strict piety and uncorrupted virtue, is a work of great difficulty. There are, however, many tender propensions and generous instincts interwoven with our very being, as restraints from vice, and incitements to virtue. The gracious Author of nature has planted in the human breast, a quick sense of good and evil; a faculty which strongly dictates right and wrong; and, though, by the strength of appetite and warmth of passion, men are often hurried into immoral practices; yet in the beginning, especially when there has been the advantage of a good education, it is usually with reluctance and opposition of mind. What inward struggles precede, what bitter pangs attend their sinful excesses ! What guilty blushes and uneasy fears! What frightful prospects and pale reviews ! “Terrors are upon them, and a fire not blown consumeth them.' To make a mock at sin, and to commit iniquity without remorse, is an attainment that requires length of time, and much painful labour; more labour than is requisite to attain that habitual goodness which is the glory of the man, the ornament of the Christian, his preparation for heaven, and the chief source of his happiness there. The soul can no more be reconciled to fagrant acts of wickedness and injustice, than the body to excess, without suffering many bitter pains and cruel attacks, attacks attended with much anguish and vexation of spirit.
Conscience may indeed be stopped and put to silence for a while by false principles, its secret whispers may be drowned by the noise of company, and stifled by entertainments of sense; but this principle of conscience is so deeply rooted in human nature, and at the same time, her voice is so clear and strong, that all the sinner's arts will be unable to lull her into a lasting security. When the hour of calamity arrives, when
sickness seizeth, and death approachetħ the sinner, conscience constrains him to listen to her accusations, and will not suffer the temples of his head to take any rest: There is no peace for the wicked; the foundations of peace are subverted, they are at utter enmity with their reason, with their conscience, and with the God of their mercies.
The case is far otherwise with true religion: conscience is on her side: reason pleads for her, and interest joins in the recommendation. When religion pure and genuine forms the temper, and governs the life, conscience applauds, and peace takes her residence in the breast: the soul is in its proper state, there is order and regularity both in the faculties and actions. Conscious of its own integrity, and secure of the divine approbation, the soul enjoys a calmness not to be described: but why do I call this happy frame calmness only? It is far more than mere calmness: the air may be calm, and the day overcast with thick mists and dark clouds : the pious and virtuous mind resembles a serene day, enlightened and enlivened with the bright. est rays of the sun; though all without may be clouds and darkness, there is a light in the heart of a pious man ; he is satisfied from himself, and is filled with peace and joy in believing: in the concluding scene, the awful moment of dissolution, all is peaceful and serene. The immortal part quits its tenement of clay with the well-grounded hopes of ascending to happiness and glory, without mixture, and without end.
The gospel enjoins no duty but what is fit and reasonable: it calls upon all its professors to practise reverence, submission, and gratitude to God; justice, truth, and universal benevolence to men; and to maintain the government of our own minds: and what has any one to object against this? From the least to the greatest commandment of our dear Redeemer, there is not one which impartial reason can find fault with; his law is perfect; his precepts are true, and righteous altogether.