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which ought to shine in our works, to the glory of our heavenly Father, is very liable to become obscured and tarnished. Nevertheless, our argument will still be found to rest on a solid basis ; for these imperfections, like those grosser defects and perversions already alluded to, are obviously to be traced, not to Christianity, but to the lingering corruptions of the human heart, which have not yet been subjected to its sanative influence. Christianity itself is always the same, and its tendency towards the production of those admirable consequences which I have endeavoured to describe, is perpetual-invariable. Here it will be seasonable to notice one of the most glorious features of the Christian system, and one of the strongest internal evidences which it presents to us of a divine origin; namely, that, in the life and character of Jesus Christ himself, as recorded in the New Testament, we have a perfect pattern of those moral effects which Christianity is intended and calculated to produce. In him there was no spot or blemish whatsoever; no sin either in intention or action ; but a perfect piety, purity, and charity; a plenary exercise of those dispositions, and an absolutely faultless performance of those duties which are required in Christians towards God, towards themselves, and towards their fellow-men. Christ is denominated, by way of supereminence, the IMAGE OF GOD; and the more we are subjected to the influence of his holy religion, the more completely is that image transfused into ourselves the greater is our ability to obey that wonderful precept of our divine lawgiver : “ Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”
III. Christianity is the instrument by which mankind are introduced to real happiness.
Men, in their natural condition, are not only ungodly and vicious, but, in various respects, unhappy. The moral disorders which abound in the heart, and which are perpetually displaying themselves in the transactions of men, seldom fail, even in this life, to be productive, in some form or other, of an equivalent measure of suffering and misery. It is probable, indeed, that whatever of pain, perplexity, and affliction, is endured by our species, may all be traced, either directly or indirectly, to these moral disorders. Now, since Christianity is the means by which such disorders are remedied, so it is. also the means of procuring for mankind a real and substantial happiness.
That this position is true of genuine Christianity, the impartial observer will readily admit. The real Christian is a centre of happiness in the community to which he belongs.
His benevolence, his forbearance, his love, his absence of selfishness, all tend to the peace and comfort of those who surround him ; and, were the principles which actuate his life and conversation really diffused through the whole society of mankind, the causes of mutual disquietude, of oppression, robbery, confusion, and bloodshed, would entirely cease. Even where Christianity is very imperfectly practised, its effect in augmenting the social happiness of men, is open to the most common observation. In the alleviations of the hospital, in the mitigations of the method of war, in the place given in the scale of society to females, in the general decency of manners, and in the sacred character of the connubial tie-advantages which were comparatively little known even to the most civilized nations of heathen antiquity--we perceive so many proofs of the tendency of Christianity to augment the happiness of men-a tendency which would unquestionably be carried forward to completion, did we yield to the religion of our Redeemer its full and legitimate sway.
But, the happiness produced by Christianity becomes still more conspicuous, when we consider its operation on individuals who are really subjected to the influence of the Gospel, That Christians are to live, during their present state of existence, without a great deal of suffering, it cannot of course be my intention to assert. They are, like other men, exposed to bodily pains and temporal afflictions; they have often to mourn over their own transgressions, and over the iniquities which prevail in the world around them; and it cannot be expected that they should be able to deny themselves, to take up their daily cross, and to mortify every vain and ungodly desire, without undergoing a considerable degree of mental uneasiness and conflict. · Nevertheless, the true Christian has many sources of substantial happiness, which are all his own. Aware as he is of his entire unworthiness, and of his many sins, he has cast liis burthen on the Lord, and can often rejoice in the humble confidence that his iniquity is pardoned, his guilt cleansed away in the blood of Christ; and thus he enjoys a true peace with God. Unable in his own strength to resist the temptations which surround him, or to walk in the path of virtue and religion, he has the happiness to know that the grace of Jesus Christ is “ sufficient" for him that the strength of his Redeemer is made perfect in weakness. Exposed as he may be to tribulation, persecution, or mental conflict, he still finds rest and satisfaction in submission to the divine will ; and he is comforted by the settled conviction that all these sufferings are the appointed means of his further purification, and are intended to work out for him an incomparably greater joy. And to this conviction is not unfrequently added that lively sense of the love of God, which spreads a delightful calm over his mind, and constitutes in itself the purest of pleasures. Lastly, for him even death is deprived of much of its bitterness and terror; for he is in possession of satisfying reasons for regarding it as the termination of every pain and sorrow, and as the sure introduction to never-ending peace.
The happiness of the true Christian, therefore, even in the present life, is of a very solid character. It is such as results from having his sins forgiven, his spiritual wants supplied, his moral diseases cured, his pains alleviated, his doubts and fears removed, his soul brought into peaceful communion with God, and his hopes, at times, full of immortality. But our view of the happiness procured for individuals through the medium of vital Christianity would be short and inadequate indeed, did we exclude from it that eternal felicity which is represented to us in the Scriptures as “ the gift of God through Jesus Christ," and in comparison with which both the sorrows and the joys of this period of our probation sink into an almost total insig. nificance.
We cannot, indeed, make a full use of this branch of the subject, in the present argument, because our assurance of the reality of this eternal future depends on the truth of Christianity ;- and the truth of Christianity is that which we are endeavouring to prove. Nevertheless, it is a powerful internal evi. dence of the divine origin of our religion, that the heavenly state of being, of which it offers us the prospect, is no elysium of sensual delights, such as superstition has proposed, and such as it is perfectly natural for man to imagine ; but a condition of absolute purity and spirituality, which may be described as the proper element of the refined and renovated soul, and into which the soundest reason must convince us that nothing defiled can ever enter.
Such then are the effects produced on mankind by vital Christianity ; but before I venture on an inference from these premises, I must request the reader's attention to a few general observations, which have an important connexion with our course of reasoning.
It is, in the first place, a very striking and confirming circumstance, that, since its promulgation by Jesus Christ and his apostles, that efficacious moral system which we have now been contemplating has continued absolutely unimproved. Sciences which originate in the exertion of human intellect, although probably never brought to perfection, are for the most part distinguished by a perpetual series of progressive changes. As the powers of man are enlarged by advancing cultivation, new discoveries are added to those of former days, and every succeeding generation finds, in the recorded acquirements of its predecessor, a vantage ground, by standing on which it is the better prepared for yet farther extending the boundaries of knowledge. But Christianity, regarded as a moral science, was promulgated by its divine author and his disciples, in a condition of perfection. To all the ends which it proposes, it is so exactly adapted, as to be capable (as far as appears to our limited comprehension) of no amelioration ; and, although probably there is no subject in the world which has engaged the thoughts of so great a multitude of wise and serious persons, including many gifted with the highest intellectual powers, this science alone, of all those which have claimed the attention of mankind, has continued entirely stationary. I am aware that the rude hand of man has, at various times, either disfigured the sacred fabric of divine truth by unsightly and incongruous ornaments, or has endeavoured to deprive it of some of those fundamental parts which are essential to its maintenance; but, to that pure and unsophisticated system of religion and morals which was taught to mankind by the Son of God and his apostles, the profoundest reflections of a thousand uninspired theologians have added no improvement.
Perfect as original Christianity appears to be, considered as a system directed to the production of moral consequences, its perfection, in the second place, is the more indicative of a divine origin, because many of the parts of which it consists are extraordinary, novel, and such as human philosophy could never have imagined. This observation applies with irresistible force to the whole doctrine of the redemption of mankind, through the incarnation, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and intercession of the Son of God; as well as to the application of that doctrine to practice, through the medium of faith working by love. These very leading points in our religion are placed far beyond the compass of mere human invention; and yet they are the very points on which, above all others, depends the practical and moral efficacy of the whole system.
Let it be observed, in the third place, that the Christian religion is of universal applicability to mankind. The conditions, characters, and circumstances of men present to our view an almost infinite diversity ; but to the spiritual wants of them all our religion is perfectly suited. Whatever station we may oceupy, whatever natural character we may possess, and in what
ever circumstances we may be placed, true Christianity will ever be effectual in bringing us to a real peace with God, and to a just performance of all our personal and relative duties.
If it be objected that even nominal Christianity is at present spread over a very limited portion of the globe, the reply is obvious—that this fact is to be attributed, not to any want of suitableness in the Christian system to those who receive it, but to extrinsic causes, which have hitherto prevented or opposed its diffusion. And if it be further objected, that even in those parts of the world which are denominated Christian, the vital influence of our religion is manifested in comparatively few persons"; we may remark again, that this fact is plainly to be ascribed, not to any defect either in the love of God or in the plan which he has instituted for our salvation, but to the depravity and perverseness of men, who are prone to cleave to their diseased condition, and who prefer darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil. Were there discovered a medicine, which, when taken, would cure every species of bodily disease in men of every possible description, it is evident that this remedy might justly be described as of universal applicability to mankind, although it might be known only to a few, and although it might be heartily received and carried into use by fewer still. Such a panacea for every species of spiritual disease, and for all sorts of men, is the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour; and, although we may mourn over the obstructions which impede its dissemination, and counteract its inftuence, yet, if we reason aright on the subject, we cannot refuse to allow that it is free from all exclusive tendencies—that, in its scope, purpose, and practical operation, it is entirely and equally adapted to the whole human race.
As it is true, in the last place, that the practical consequences detailed in the present Essay never fail to be the result of genuine Christianity, so it is also true, to a very great extent, that they are the result of Christianity alone. Evident it must be, to every candid and serious observer, that neither heathenism, nor Mahometanism can pretend, with the least color of truth, to the production of these admirable effects; for the for. mer has been very generally accompanied by the grossest absurdities and corruptions; and the latter is so far from being morally curative in its tendency, that, under particular circum. stances, it openly fans both the violent and the voluptụous passions of our fallen nature. Neither can we perceive in the comparatively pure religion of the Jews (now they have rejected their own Messiah) the practical operation of those powerful principles, by which many of them were once enabled to