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THE INDISPENSABLE NECESSITY OF A DIVINE
REVELATION SHOWN FROM THE STATE OF MAN IN ALL AGES.
ROMANS 1. 19—24.
Because that which may be known of God is mani.
fest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; so that they are without ercuse. Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools: and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God unto an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, und four-footed beusts, and creeping
things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lust of their own hearts.
Having considered in our last discourse the temper of mind in which an enquiry into the truth and importance of the Christian revelation should be pursued, I now proceed a step further. I address myself to the young Christian, and before I enter upon the direct arguments which may strengthen his conviction of the truth of the scriptures, I beg him to pause and consider the absolute and indispensable necessity of a divine revelation, as it appears from the state of mankind in all ages and nations where Christianity has been unknown, and from the condition of Christian nations, in proportion as Christianity has been inadequately known and obeyed. . .
Not that man is to presume to set up himself as a judge whether the Almighty should grant him a revelation or not. God forbid ! We are weak and ignorant creatures. The Sovereign Lord of all (for I argue not with the atheist) has a right to do what he will with his own. It might have pleased him to make a revelation of his will, without enabling us at all to see the necessity of it in our present circumstances. Or it might have been only to
the extent of assisting and aiding us in certain difficulties.-or it might have gone to some improvement merely in our manner of worship, or some advance in our degree of knowledge. In every case, a revelation from God would have been an object of humble and obedient gratitude. But, undoubtedly, it deepens our impression of the incalculable importance of the Christian religion, when we perceive the utter hopelessness and misery of man in all ages and under all circumstances without it. The direct proofs will thus have no antecedent improbability to overcome. The religion will stand clear of any previous imputation of being unnecessary or unlikely. It will come to us with all that strong presumption in its favour which arises from the necessities of mankind, compared with the acknowledged goodness and benevolence of God.
The necessity of a divine revelation, then, will appear, if we consider the state of the HEATHEN WORLD. BEFORE THE COMING OF Christ; the state of UNBELIEVERS AT PRESENT scattered in Christian lands; that of the PAGAN, NATIONS now in different parts of the world ; and THE COUNTRIES OF CHRISTENDOM themselves, in proportion as they do not obey practically the revelation they profess to receive.
I. Let us consider the deplorable ignorance, idolatry, and vice of the HEATHEN WORLI) BEFORE THE COMING OF CHRIST.
It is most difficult to divest ourselves so far of the principles and habits of a Christian education, as to form any just conception of the state of things when the light of the gospel first arose upon the world. It is of itself no slight argument in favour of Christianity, that it has placed us on such an eminence of religious and moral feeling, that we cannot easily explore, even in imagination, that gulf of depravity where mankind previously lay. A few points of contrast is all I shall attempt.
1. The existence of one living and true God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments, are the foundation of the Christian faith, and are so generally known amongst us, that the ministers of religion can take them as admitted in their instructions. The child and the peasant understand them.
But throughout the heathen world, before the coming of Christ, the doctrine of the Being of God was lost. Idolatry the most debasing universally prevailed—there was no fixed belief of the creation of the world, of a divine providence, of the accountableness of man, of the immortality of the soul, of a future judgment. I say nothing about reconciliation, the means of
pardon, the aids of the Holy Spirit, and other blessings of the gospel, because no notion, on these important truths was entertained; the broken traditions and indistinct notices of sacrifice could afford no light to guide man aright-and as to those primary questions on: which all religion, all obedience, all worship, all love to God, all the authority of conscience, all the sanction of duty, all the fear of future :. punishment, all moral responsibility rest, the utmost confusion prevailed. The greatest philosophers groped as in the night. Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.
2. Again, as to the standard of morals and our duties to each other, Christians have the Ten Commandments, summing them up in a brief and intelligible and authoritative code every creature knows the rule of duty. All is : plain, express, binding on the conscience, But the heathen had no distinct knowledge, on these subjects, no agreement on what.con-, , stituted virtue, no clear idea of the supreme good, no fixed and invariable rule of right, and wrong. Many virtues were unknown;x many vices defended or excused. They had no sufficient motives to enforce what they did know of these things. The light of nature as to morals, was obscure, weak, uncertain, partial. Man having lost the knowledge of his