Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

failed of adding a single title to the Scriptural injunctions on this subject.

With respect to the expiation of sin, it is hardly necessary to observe, that infidels do not even make any pretensions to any knowledge concerning it. They appear, with a single voice, to give themselves up to the mere course of events ; and, either negligently or resolutely, to encounter whatever dangers and difficulties may attend their own future well-being. Their negligence is stupidity; their resolution, frenzy!

A single remark shall conclude the Discourse. It is this:

Infidels, by forsaking the Scriptures, have reduced themselves to a most alarming and deplorable condition.

Infidels are not only sinners, but usually at least are preeminent sinners. Of this the proof is complete. To say that a man is an infidel, is to say proverbially, that he is destitute of all moral excellence both in principle and practice. This phraseology has grown into use merely from the conduct of infidels, as observed by the common eye of mankind. In such a case it is incredible that there should be any error. What, then, is to become of these men ? Like others, they must go to the grave, and to the judgment. That there will be a judgment and a retribution after we leave the present world, has been uniformly believed by the great body of the human race in every age and country, and under the influence of every moral system. A few philosophers, either partially or wholly atheistical, and a very small number of the most ignorant and degraded tribes of African savages, have on the one hand denied, and the other hand been ignorant of this doctrine. The denial is a gross opposition—the ignorance a gross scandal—to human reason.

What account will these men give of themselves to their Creator? Look into the progress of their lives, and tell me whether they present any thing which He, in whose sight the heavens are unclean, can be imagined to regard with complacency; any thing, which even the consciences of infidels themselves can review with comfort ?

If there be a final judgment, on that judgment all the future good of man is suspended. Immortal being, with its amazing interests, will then be fixed; and will unquestionably be fixed according to the tenor of the life

spent
in the

present world. The soul itself will here be finally disposed of; and every thing which, in the view of infidels, as well as of other men, pertains to its welfare. What is to become of me? is a question infinitely interesting to every child of Adam. Who can answer this question in such a manner as to remove doubt and anguish, and give peace and hope ? None certainly, beside him who will dispose of us all in that day according to his own pleasure. That God will do what he pleases with us, and every thing that is ours, cannot be doubted even by a sot. What this will be, no being beside himself can divine. If there is hope for man, for guilty, apostate man, it has never been detected by the human mind. How can it be detected, unless we can follow the purposes of a voluntary being; and looking directly into the secret chambers of the soul, see them as they there exist? How obviously is this impossible with respect to a finite being ; a man like ourselves, known to us by a thousand daily communications ? How much more evidently is it impossible with respect to God, whose ways are higher than our ways, as the heavens are higher than the earth? But although it is impossible for us to discover the allotments of men beyond the grave, it is absolutely certain, that God will regard with favour no beings but those with whose conduct he is p'eased ; and that it is impossible for him to be pleased with sinners. Infidels, beyond all doubt, are sinners. If they look at all into their minds or lives, they know themselves to be sinners. They leave the world in the character of sinners. They cannot, therefore, be the objects of his favour, nor receive his blessing; and to this miserable condition they reduce themselves by their hatred and rejection of the Scriptures. Were a Christian voluntarily to place them in this miserable situation, they would pronounce him, and with too much reason, to be a fiend.

SERMON VI.

SERMONS ON REVELATION.

SERMON IV.

MODES OF TEACHING THEOLOGY AND MORALS ADOPTED

BY THE ANCIENT PHILOSOPHERS INCAPABLE OF PRODUCING REFORMATION.

1 Cor. 111. 20.

The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are

vain.

In the three preceding discourses I have attempted to show, that the reason of man is incapable of devising a religion which will render him acceptable to God. This general proposition I endeavoured to support, by showing that mankind have never been able to discover satisfactorily a defensible scheme of duty, of worship, or of expiation ; that their knowledge of these great subjects is extremely limited ; that their arguments are miserably feeble ; and that their conclusions, at the best, are totally uncertain. In the last discourse I attempted to prove, that the philosophers, men to whom all those who, in modern times, have asserted the sufficiency of human reason for these purposes, have regularly recurred for the support of their favourite opinions, have, instead of making the religious system which they found in the world better, actually made it

worse.

In the present discourse it is my intention to show, that the

66 The

[ocr errors]

manner in which their philosophy was taught was vain and useless, and could never become the means of accomplishing a reformation among mankind. To this truth the text immediately conducts us. “ The Lord,” says St. Paul, “ knoweth “ the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.” This passage is quoted from the 94th Psalm, and the 11th verse. “ Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity; that is, “ the thoughts of all men, the wisest as well as the 66 weakest.” The passage is, therefore, quoted with sufficient exactness, without supposing any alteration in the copy.

The word, rendered thoughts in the text, is danogrouous; the literal English of which is reasonings. Correctly expressed, therefore, the declaration of the text will be, “ The Lord “ knoweth the reasonings of the wise, that they are vain.” The instructions which the philosophers of Greece and Rome, 'the Sopoi here intended by the Apostle, communicated to mankind, were chiefly given in the form of reasonings. Discourses exhibited in this form were those of which they especially boasted, and on which they supremely relied for the dissemination of their opinions and establishment of their fame.

With the manner in which the doctrines of these philosophers were communicated, I shall unite, in my observations, all the circumstances of material importance which attended these philosophical discussions. The discussions themselves, and the circumstances immediately connected with them, were so intimately interwoven, that they came to the minds of all who received them as one combined object, and were inseparab y united as a single cause of whatever effects they produced on the mind.

With these observations premised, I assert, from the text, the following doctrine :

That the mode of teaching theology and morals adopted by the ancient Philosophers, involved in itself a necessary and total inefficacy for producing a reformation among mankind.

Moral and religious instructions, whether doctrines or precepts, are capable of being taught in two great and entirely distinct methods; viz. as laws and philosophy. Whenever they are communicated in the form of laws, binding the consciences and

[ocr errors]

the conduct of men, it is obvious that they can be communicated, with either propriety or effect, only by a lawgiver, who has a right to prescribe as well as to teach. This lawgiver can be no other than God; and the mode of teaching cannot be adopted in any code of instruction, except a revelation. This truth has been every where felt and acknowledged. Accordingly, all instructors, vested, or professing to be vested, with authority merely human, have taught in the latter of these methods, or that of philosophy; sufficient, perhaps, to influence with all the necessary advantage the ordinary and prudential pursuits of mankind, but absolutely vain, as may appear from the following considerations, in those concerns which involve our duty and salvation.

I. Philosophy teaches its doctrines universally as parts of a system.

This method seems to be involved in the very nature of philosophical teaching. As that which is to be taught is rarely evident by itself, it must, of course, be supported by evidence derived from other sources. The evidence by which any doctrine is supported in the mode of philosophical instruction, is usually dependent for its strength, in a great measure at least, on the connection of that doctrine with others. In order to evince the truth of the respective parts, their connection must almost always be exhibited, so that they may seem to be parts of one whole, and necessary to each other. Hence the whole, of which the supposed doctrines are parts, must be displayed. In other words, a scheme, a system of the science to which these doctrines belong, must be formed by the teacher, and unfolded to his disciples. So generally, and so much of course is this the fact, that a work, formed in such a manner, is appropriately called a philosophical work. If the course here specified be not pursued, a great part of the evidence which supports the individual doctrines, must be lost. Most of them will, of consequence, be unsupported, and will, therefore, be taught in vain. In this manner of teaching, (the best I acknowledge, which mankind are able to adopt,) there are two

« AnteriorContinuar »