« 上一頁繼續 »
any essential difference between the detestable practices, the horrid cruelties, the impure rites of heathenism in all ages and places, from the dispersion of mankind to the present hour ? In Christian countries, indeed, the god of this world hides his more hideous features, and sceptics frame ingenious theories of religion; but, in pagan lands, he displays his true character, he marks his progress with ferocity and blood, he whitens the plain of Juggernaut with the bones of pilgrims crushed under his car, or lights the lurid flame which consumes the widow on the funeral pile of her husband, or assenables his devotees around the human sacrifice; whilst his mysteries and his morals are frightful for their fierceness, and disgusting for their offences against nature. The offering of animals in sacrifice, the voice of oracles, and the other pretended communications with the Deity, been been lost or silenced since the coming in of Christianity; and paganism now retains only the dregs of its old traditions. She exhibits no religion but that of terror, no representations of the Deity, but those of cruelty and lewdness, no hold on the original revelation to Adam, but the faintest traces of distorted fear.
If any thing can be added to this picture, it is that amongst all the Heathen tribes and the individuals who in Christian lands profess
sceptical principles, scarcely one is to be found who ever acted up to that light of nature, scanty as it is, which he still retained. Perhaps it may be said, that not one, by the unaided powers of the moral sense, ever fulfilled uniformly its dictates : Therefore, they are without excuse, because when they knew God, they glorified him not as God-faint and obscure as that knowledge was, and limited and defective as its prescriptions would necessarily be. What then is man without revelation? What can make out the absolute necessity of some authoritative guide, to lead men to the practice of pure religion and real virtue, if the above statements do not ?
IV. One additional topic remains: the state of men generally in CHRISTIAN COUNTRIES IN PROPORTION AS DIVINE REVELATION IS INADEQUATELY KNOWN AND OBEYED.
Have men in Christendom too much light? As they recede from a real obedience to revelation, is their knowledge increased and are their morals improved ? Does the state of Christian nations show that revelation was probably needless? Is it not quite notorious, that the standard of religious knowledge and holiness rises in exact proportion as Christianity is fully acted upon; and sinks as it is neglected or obscured?
Can any thing prove more clearly the indispensable necessity of a divine revelation? Is not the proof unavoidable, prominent, demonstrative, tangible?
In the sixteenth century, when from a gradual corruption of the Christian faith, revelation was nearly lost, what was it that marked the decay? was it not morals depraved-superstitions multiplied-heathenism revived under the garb of Christianity-spiritual tyranny established-the pure worship of God forgottenmoral duties exchanged for vows and pilgrimages and austerities-secularity, selfishness, moral apathy, vice triumphant? And what was it that recalled men to the truth of essential religion? Was it unaided reason? Was it not the Book of Revelation re-opened, re-published, re-appealed to by the magnanimous zeal of the Reformers and Martyrs ?
Take any period you please, and tell me the instance in which reason ever brought men up from the gulf of ignorance and degeneracy; show me the spot where its boasted irradiations shone forth; point out the people amongst whom conscience and the moral sense and the contemplation of the works of nature, I will not say, first planted religion, but preserved it when it had been planted, or revived it when it had declined, or purified it when it had been
corrupted. It is by revelation only that truth is first sown; it is by revelation only that it is nourished; it is by revelation only it is re-cultivated and made fruitful.
Cast an eye over the states of Christendom now, and tell me whetherthe moral and religious purity of each is not in proportion to its adequate knowledge of the Christian revelation? Is it to France during the late rule of infidelity, that I am to be directed for a proof, that revelation can be spurned by a Christian people without injury? What, have we forgotten the overwhelming corruption of all ranks of her people, not a quarter of a century since, as the infidel school succeeded in their daring designs? Have we forgotten the goddess of reason, and the abolition of the Sabbath, and death proclaimed an eternal sleep, and the reign of terror, and the murders of thousands and tens of thousands all over the finest country of Christendom, when it had renounced its religion and its God?
I will not stop to say a word on the state of Italy and Spain, where the gross ignorance of the Christianity they still profess in name, is marked with the correspondent demoralization of the people; I will come nearer home and put the question of the necessity of a revelation to the test of our own observation. Survey the state of your populous towns, and the mass of
your manufacturing poor, have you any sufficient hold upon the conscience, except as the Christian religion is adequately known and obeyed? What does the neglect or ignorance of the peculiar truths of the Bible produce ? What do all the improvements in education, in the mechanical arts, in science, and the exercise of the reasoning powers produce, if disjoined from Christianity, and poured into the receptacle of a proud intellect? Must not every one be compelled to acknowledge that revelation is the foundation of virtue, conscience, subjection to law, and the peace of society? That it is so far from being unnecessary in its original communication, that it is indispensable still to the maintenance and application of the truths it has discovered, and the principles it has taught?
Indeed, may I not advance a step further, and appeal to the heart of every true Christian before me? Do you find revelation unnecessary? Can you do without your Bible, without your Saviour, without the promises of grace? Do you find that if you close the sacred volume, and rely on natural light and reason and argument and the fitness of things, you increase in the love and obedience of God? Do you not, on the contrary, feel that all I have said of the absolute and indispensable necessity of