Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

supposed to have any claims,—even to the least blessings, much more to the series of dispensations proposed. All this, however, would not answer the end. Were the revelation proposed actually to be made, there is little reason to believe that it would be either welcomed or obeyed. Infidels have now abundant and decisive evidence; such as they cannot answer, and such as ought therefore to satisfy them, that the Bible is the word of God. Yet they are unsatisfied ; and oppose, deny, and calumniate the Bible. Vast multitudes, also, of mankind, who acknowledge its divine origin, contend against its doctrines, and disobey its precepts. The reason is obvious ; they love sin, and dread its punishment. For the very same reason, revelation has been resisted in every age.

« This is the con“ demnation,” says the Saviour of men, “ that light is come “ into the world; and men loved darkness rather than light, ¢ because their deeds were evil. He that doth evil hateth the “ light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be

reproved.”

[ocr errors]

III. From the same 'source we learn, that another objection against the divine origin of the Scriptures, customarily made by infidels,—viz. that they have not been more extensively given to mankind,-is vain and futile.

Infidels customarily speak of natural religion as having been communicated to the whole human race. Yet even themselves, whenever they appeal to facts, are obliged to recur to the ancient philosophers, and those almost solely of Greece and Rome. Exclusively of the discoveries which are attributed to these men, there is not now, there never has been, revelation apart, any thing that can be called religion. After mighty and long continued labours on this subject,- after many and most magnificent promises,-infidels have never been able to produce any thing more. Lord Herbert, after having made the strongest declarations, that the religion of nature is innate in the mind of every man, and is there written by the finger of God, is compelled to confess, that it has been obliterated from the minds of almost all men. But the philosophers in question were a little company of men; and all who ever read their books were but a mere handful. There are more persons in the United States at the present moment who read the Scriptures, and are in a good degree acquainted with the religion which they contain, than the whole number which have read any philosophical writings since philosophy was first written. There were far more persons in the Jewish nation, and in most ages of that nation, who were acquainted with the writings of Moses, and afterwards with those of the prophets, than were ever acquainted with the Grecian and Roman philosophy. It ought here to be observed, that these writings, also, came into existence at so late a period, that they are liable to the full force of the preceding objection. These philosophers lived very long after the time of Moses; most of them very little before, and some of them after the time of Christ. Had they, therefore, discovered a religion which would render men accepted by their Maker, that religion would have been liable to both these objections in a far higher degree than the religion of the Scriptures.

But the truth is, the religion which they taught was as little fitted to accomplish this great end, as that which was embraced by the people at large. They cleared the common Gentilism of some absurdities, and ornamented it with some doctrines and precepts which were just and defensible ; but they added many absurdities of their own; taught false doctrines of their own; and increased the number of immoral precepts. All these, also, they impressed on the mind with the whole force of their genius, learning, eloquence, and authority. In the meantime, their example destroyed the influence of their instructions when they were true, and increased it when they were false. What, therefore, they found bad in itself, they made worse upon the whole, and not better.

SERMON IV.

SERMONS ON REVELATION.

SERMON II.

MAN CANNOT FIND OUT A RELIGION WHICH WILL

RENDER HIM ACCEPTABLE TO GOD.

JOB xxviii. 12, 13. " Where shall wisdom be found, and where is the place of un

derstanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof, neither is it found in the

land of the living."

An intelligent and sober man, surveying himself and the objects around him, would very naturally form a series of reflections like the following:

66 Whence and what am I? How came I to be, to be what, “ and where I am ? My frame is a complication of wonders, “ utterly surpassing my comprehension. It is alive. What is " that life, and whence derived ? It can move.

What is the “ cause of its motions ? It is the medium through which I re“ ceive an endless multitude of senations, both pleasurable and “ painful. By what mysterious power does it become the me« dium? I can think and choose; I can imagine and feel; I

can hope and fear; I can love and hate; I can enjoy and 66 suffer. In what manner are these wonderful affections pro“ duced ?

“ I am placed in a world full of wonders. The vegetable, the

16 and

men.

“ animal, and the mineral kingdoms are replenished with objects “ of a marvellous nature; effects which I can understand very

imperfectly, and causes which I can scarcely understand at all. “ Yet I can distinctly perceive that they are extensively fitted “ for the use of man, and appear as if they were intended, to a “great extent at least, to contribute to the comfort of myself

my

fellow But what are we? For what end were we made ? for there are so visible and numerous proofs of con“ trivance, and of such wonderful contrivance in both the body “ and mind of man, that it is irrational, and seems to be impos6 sible not to conclude that we were made. Who, and what is

He, by whom we were made ? How plainly must his nature “ transcend all such comprehension as mine? In the contem

plation of such power, wisdom, and agency as I see displayed “ in myself, and in all things which are presented to my view, “ I am lost in astonishment. For what purpose was I made ? “ I, and all other men must soon go to the grave. Shall I “then perish; or shall I survive the tomb, and re-exist in fu“ ture periods of endless duration ? Of what incomprehensi“ ble importance are those questions? Who can " them ?"

“ If man is destined to be immortal, and may be happy “ throughout eternity, what measures shall he undertake to “ ensure his happiness? Where, how, with whom shall he 66 exist ? What will be his circumstances ? How shall he “act, so as to make all these things desirable when he shall 66 arrive in the future world ?”

Thoughts like these have probably passed through the mind of every man possessed of the character which I have mentioned. "Not improbably they may often have engrossed his deepest attention ; awakened anxiety and alarm ; produced perplexity; forced the thoughts to wander into the eternal world to explore, with distressing solicitude, the character and designs of God; and to ask, “ What will become of me, when my

soul shall be separated from my body." “ Where," he will irresistibly exclaim, “shall the wisdom be found, which “shall make me acceptable to God? Where is the place of 4 that understanding which will enable me effectually to pro

answer

"vide for the wants of my future being ? Man certainly “ knoweth not the price thereof, for its value is beyond all “ price ; neither is it found in the land of the living, for such

a discovery would have filled the world with astonishment “ and rapture, and the tidings must have vibrated through

every nation, and every succeeding age of man."

I have already stated several difficulties which have prevented mankind from discovering a religion capable of rendering them acceptable to God. It is now my design to consider this subject with respect to several other things which may be considered as fundamental, and which, if I mistake not, will, when fairly examined, prove the doctrine beyond all reasonable doubt.

In this examination I shall pursue the scheme adopted in a former discourse, and shall consider that which man can do concerning this all-important subject, as being what man has already done. It would be idle here to enter into abstract speculations concerning the possible extent of the powers of man. After all the laborious efforts which have been made, and made with every advantage, it is perfect trifling to inquire whether there may not be hereafter some superior mind, or a mind possessed of some superior advantages, by which this mighty discovery may be more successfully made. Cicero's remark is here plainly conclusive, “ That it makes no differ

ence whether no man is wise, or whether no man can be 66 wise."

Still I propose, for the purpose of producing a greater satisfaction in the minds of my audience, to inquire into the nature of the case; and in the course of this inquiry shall attempt to show, that reason cannot possibly, make this discovery, and to exhibit the real grounds of this impossibility.

Towards the accomplishment of this purpose I observe generally,

That our duty cannot be performed, unless it is known ;

That it cannot be known, unless our relations to the beings, to whom our duties are owed, be known; and

That these relations cannot be known, unless the nature, character, and circumstances of these beings, out of which all

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »