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LECT. I

LECT. III.] 116 DEPRAVITY.

1 x DEPRAVITY.

71

in short, had reached its deepest point of depression, had intercepted, like a vast portentous cloud, the last scattered rays of truth, and overshadowed with its thickening gloom the prospects of a lost world, exactly when the Christian revelation, as the morning sun, arose to dissipate the darkness and reveal the day. is

I ask, then, of any serious enquirer, (and I am concerned with none other,) whether the absolute necessity of a divine revelation be not shown beyond all contradiction? And I assure him that the picture I have drawn is utterly incapable of giving a just conception of the actual ignorance, idolatry, and depravity of the heathen world. The fact is, there never was a case so clearly made out. It is too late in the day of trial for the infidel of the nineteenth century to avail himself of the light of revelation blazing for so many ages, and then to turn about and say, We can guide ourselves by our own reason, without the aid of Christian truth. But this brings us to consider,

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II. The unbelievERS Now SCATTERED OVER CHRISTIAN COUNTRIES. And here we ask, whence did they derive their light? Is it sufficient to direct man? Has it any force when disjoined from revelation ?

They tell us, indeed, that they allow the being and attributes of God, that this one God is to be worshipped, that piety and virtue are the principal parts of his worship, that God will pardon our sins upon repentance, that there are rewards for the good, and punishments for the bad, in a future state. They consider all these truths as absolutely necessary--that is, some amongst them do, for the number is perhaps but small. They call these truths common notices, perfectly clear, so that a man cannot be a rational creature if he deny them. :' .

orsies 1. But whence did these truths break in upon men in the sixteenth or seventeenth century, except from the habitual exhibition of them by the Christian revelation, and by the Christian revelation exclusively—all the wisest heathen philosophers having failed to discover one of these truths during the lapse of ages?' How came it to pass that Socrates and Plato and Aristotle wandered in total darkness about every one of them? How came it to pass that these principles were first taught by persons educated in the Christian religion, taught these truths in the greatest purity, and in conjunction with

* 2 Lord Herbert of Cherbury, the earliest of our English Deists, wrote in 1624. The name of Deist was unknown till about the year 1565.--Leland's Deistical Writers, vol. 1, p. 2, 3.

many others, by the lips of the Christian ministry, and trained up in all the habits and usages of a Christian community ? Had these doctrines been wrought out by the study of some heathen philosopher of Northern Europe or distant Asia, some recluse in the deserts of Africa, or the back settlements of the Western Continent, who had never heard of the Christian faith, an argument might be drawn from the fact; but, the claims of men living under the meridian sun of Christianity, and of reformed Christianity, (for it was not till after the Reformation that Deists were known,) can never for a moment be admitted. As well might, a foreigner residing amongst the inventions of the arts in England, seize on our brightest discoveries and claim them as bis own. The fact is perfectly intelligible; the notions of modern unbelievers are no more than the twilight of revelation, after the sun of it has been set in their apostacy from God. Christianity has shamed away the grosser errors and vices of heathenism, and the unbeliever borrows now some of the revealed doctrines, in order to gain an audience amongst mankind. There is no proof that any one individual in any age or nation ever discovered any one of these principles, except as enlightened by Christianity.

But let us ask further, whether, after all, these principles are sufficient for the guidance of man-whether, after all, they lessen the necessity of a divine revelation ? Now it is quite obvious that discoveries made in the seventeenth century can be no reason against the necessity of the Christian faith in the first. But, waving this, let us just ask whether these five common principles and notices are indeed held firmly and unequivocally by modern unbelievers? The fact is, the moment you begin to enquire of them, inconsistency, disagreement, mutual recrimination fill your ears. There is not one of these principles, except perhaps that of the being of a God, which is uniformly admitted, much less taught by infidel writers. Each has his own vague, defective, private, unauthorized system. Then, as to the true nature of piety and virtue, the qualities of repentance, the rule of future rewards and punishments, all is uncertainty, doubt and contradiction. And what standard have they to appeal to upon disputed questions, what authority and sanction for the promulgation of their tenets, what ground to stand upon when exposed to temptation and the suggestions of passion ? Though these five principles are admitted in general terms as the dictates of natural religion by some few unbe

lievers, yet what influence have unauthorized principles upon men's practice, how can they inculcate them, what sincerity do they show in their belief of them? Is it not notorious that infidels never enforce these truths at all, except as matters of display in argument, never employ them practically and efficiently for the regulation of their own conduct? Is it not notorious, that they look upon all religion as a mere political invention, with no real claim to acceptance on its own account? Is it not notorious, that they lean toward ancient paganism, are loud in their commendations of its “elegant divinities,”3 to use their own phrase, and continually excuse and palliate its enormities? In fact, the love of fame, the conformity to established usages without regard to conscience the pursuit of sensual pleasures, are too evidently the principles of infidels, and demonstrate that they would soon relapse into some system of gross superstition, or into atheism itself, if the presence and the restraints of Christianity were withdrawn.

But not only are these common notices insufficient as a guide to man, but they lose all their force when disjoined from the native stock of the Christian faith. The acknowledgment of one God, of the obligations of piety and virtue, of the duty of repentance and the retribution of

3 Gibbon.

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