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of a holier and mortified life, upon which the fanatical or ambitious founders of sects have built their success. The most absurd and ridiculous doctrines have thus been recommended. But what sect is to be named, which has signally prospered by an opposite policy and a looser doctrine?—unless, indeed, by such a degree of laxity as has become freedom from all moral restraint, and has thus destroyed its pretence to be called a religious body. It is idle to think that it may be otherwise now. The world is said to be more intelligent-society is cultivated and refined. But, unless religion be absolutely discarded, men still believe in its exalted purity and holiness; and that form of religion will command the surest homage and do the best work, which shall offer the severest standard of moral and spiritual attainment, alike free from timid concession to the spirit of the world, and from weak tendency to fanaticism and superstition; in other words, which shall succeed most truly in representing the character of Christ;-as bold, as unflinching in principle as he; yet as gentle, as amiable, and as free from all extravagance and eccentricity.
This, I say to those whom I address, is what you are to desire and aim at. You might as well be no Christians at all, as be satisfied with anything less than this. You might as well abandon all hope of progress and prosperity now, as struggle on hoping to succeed by a power of personal religion less than this. Nothing less than this is the Christian character; and neither human nature, nor the providence of God, nor the spirit of grace, will permit any satisfactory attainments to be made in goodness, by those who would substitute some other standard of goodness for that of the Christian Scriptures. No such attempt can succeed. Nothing but true principle can create true virtue. If you think to render the true principle more palatable to men, or better adapted to them, by diluting it down to the taste of the worldly, you change it from what it is-you destroy precisely that which constitutes its efficiency, namely, its truth, and thus you render it the same in effect as falsehood. Christianity cannot be made this accommodating system without ceasing to be Christianity.
It is necessary, then, to insist on a high and uncompromising standard. It were a poor thing to contend for a religion which bends to our tastes, conforms to our habits, humours our prejudices, and connives at our selfishness. All these we might have without a religious system, as well as with it. No doctrine is worth a rational regard which will not do something for us-which will not lift us out of ourselves and above the world, and transform us in the renewing of our minds, and make us fully conformed to the holy, acceptable and perfect will of God. Pure and undefiled religion, says the apostle James, consists in holiness and love; it is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and keep one's self unspotted from the world.' Our faith is worth little to us, if it do not effect this. We may glory in it as we please; it is but a worthless name, if it do not issue in purity and philanthropy-if it do not work by love and purify the heart. We may argue for it with what power of demonstration we please-we may eulogize it as with the tongues of angels; if it have not wrought in us the great transformation which Christ designed-if it do not prove its divinity by its effects on character, who will heed the tones of admiration in which we laud it?-who will credit our sincerity?
I would ask, with all humility and earnestness, whether the com..
munity is awake to these considerations? We need not overlook the disadvantages of its position. We may make due allowance for the encumbrances and drawbacks which result from the circumstances under which it has come into existence, and from the heterogeneous character which has been imparted to it by the confusion and troubles of the times. To these circumstances I have adverted on a former page; they are such as to demand a charitable judgment and candid allowance, which will by many be denied them. But make what allowance may be reasonable, still, if circumstances are unpropitious, there is only the more imperative cail for exertion in order to surmount them, and to do our duty in spite of them. To yield to them-to acquiesce in their neutralizing and palsying influences-to suffer them to put to sleep our zeal and philanthropy, would be unpardonable treachery to a great trust. May we abandon a cause because circumstances are adverse? May we labour in it languidly, for the very reason that vehement efforts are requisite in order to its advancement? We have in view one grand object, namely, to ensure to Christianity its full, its legitimate authority in society and over men. In order to this, we are professedly seeking to extend and complete the Reformation. If there be impediments in any of the circumstances and accidents of the times, they must be strenuously resisted. Every means must be employedevery heart and hand must be engaged. The pulpit must assume a more earnest and stimulating tone, and the press a more determined emphasis, and thus urge home upon the conscience of the community the fervent, bold, persevering expostulations which the sacred importance of the enterprise demands. Every believer must apply himself to the work, and inquire, and talk, and pray, and act, until all arrive at that elevation of the spiritual life, which as yet is only approached, but which must be arrived at before a Christian community can be fully worthy of its name.
The signs of the times are favourable. The movement has been long begun, and is prosperously going on. May God speed it! Our churches, our Sunday schools, our books, and our various organizations for mutual aid and charitable action, are gratifying tokens of advancement; they show that the true spirit is at work; they encourage us to labour and pray for its extension, confident that God will hear our prayer, and that success will reward our labours. Let us then redouble our labours and our prayers. Let us contend valiantly for these practical and spiritual achievements. The times are propitious-all things are ready-there is something for every man to do. Every man has, first of all, a mighty work to finish in his own character; he has, in watchfulness and prayer, to govern and perfect his own spirit, and, in disinterested love, to seek the good of those around him. He has to do his share toward the diffusion of elevated principles-toward giving a Christian tone to the society in which he moves-toward imbuing its conversation, its spirit, its habits, with the purity, gentleness, peacefulness, and love of right, which ought to characterize communities of Christians. Much activity is requisite in order to this end. Very much is to be done to make society what it should be; very much before it will realize the image drawn in the New Testament. It can be effected only by the strenuous fidelity of individual Christians; and no one can be accounted guiltless, who neglects by word and example to do all in his power to hasten the desirable consummation.
But individuals cannot do it alone. Their single action will effect something; but it is their combined action only which can bring about the perfect result. And therefore, if I am asked what is the great lesson of expediency and duty to be drawn from the survey now taken of the position, character, circumstances and relations of this Christian community -I should answer, the imperious necessity of more general and affectionate union and co-operation in the cause of truth and happiness. I should say, you stand in a peculiar posture-you are pledged to a peculiar work, peculiar and vast—you are embarrassed by peculiar and multifarious impediments-and nothing but the loftiest virtue, and the most devoted faith, and the most energetic and unquenchable zeal, will enable you to carry through your work, and accomplish what Providence has apparently offered to you to accomplish. Under such circumstances, it is impossible that the single-handed efforts of insulated individuals shall be sufficient. The requisite zeal cannot be kindled, the necessary determination cannot be excited, the needed information cannot be spread, without much communion of mind with mind, much action of heart on heart. You must unite your hearts, your prayers, your strength. You must meet together, and talk about these things; excite, encourage, admonish each other, provoke one another to love and good works. Devotion, in this cold world, needs the cheering stimulus of sympathy; virtue, in this tempting world, needs the strength of public countenance; philanthropy, in this selfish world, requires the support and courage of numbers. You must pray together in social circles assembled for the purpose; converse together of your trials, wants and duties, of the demands of the truth, of the necessities of the church, of the capacities, glories, infirmities, degradation and destiny of this immortal nature; and thus enkindle a livelier flame of piety, a warmer zeal for truth, a bolder action for charity, and a more eager aspiration after the spiritual life. In order to this end, I know nothing to be more earnestly desired, than the increase of these means of social and mutual religious improvement. The times cry out for them. Wherever adopted, they have been signally blessed. So few have the ability to excite their own souls and set themselves to work, that thousands when left alone, would sink down into cold inactive selfishness, who, if placed in frequent contact with their fellow-believers, would become generous, ardent, enterprising promoters of every good design.
But whatever may be thought of the means that should be employed, there can be no doubtfulness respecting the greatness of the object. The hints which I have rudely thrown out on the peculiarities, the hazards, the responsibilities of the present crisis might be extended to a volume, and ought to be written in characters of fire. Weakly as they are here presented, they cannot be wholly without force; and if any man of powerful and earnest mind perceives their justice and urgency, I leave it in charge with him to set them forth in their proper strength, and press them on the attention and conscience of the public. If I can rouse one such mind to speak to the times in the prophet-like tone in which they ought to be addressed, I shall feel that I have not ventured to lift my voice in vain. At any rate I have attempted to perform a duty.
'But all is in His hand, whose praise I seek;
Whose frown can disappoint the proudest strain,
JESUS CHRIST NOT AN ENTHUSIAST.
CHRISTIANITY is an historical fact. It is; for nineteen centuries it has been. This no hardihood can impeach, no sophistry can evade. If there be one institution which more than another has stamped its impress on the history of the last two thousand years, it is Christianity. A fact that cannot be denied, must be accounted for. The question of its origin is forced upon the mind. And if by the consentient voice of tradition and history, the consentient voice of friends and foes-if by its very name Christianity is ascribed to Christ as its author-then ensues the enquiry as to the circumstances under which he, the unquestionable author of it, was enabled to offer it to the world. What supposition involves a cause adequate to account for the acknowledged facts? None, we reply, but that he was under the special influence of the Father of lights' and the God of love.
It has, however, been urged that he was an enthusiast. In the better sense of the term, we admit that Jesus was an enthusiast; he was—that is, as the word enthusiast strictly importshe was inspired of God-he was filled with a divine spirit, and a divine energy, and a divine devotedness, both to God's will and man's welfare. The noble ardour of his soul kindled at the sight of human error and wretchedness, and prompted him to throw himself with an entire self-oblivion on the stupendous undertaking of saving the world. But the objector uses the word enthusiast as indicative of a person led away by the illusions of his imagination, and by that false estimate of power which ensues when the passions are too strong for the judgment. Jesus, the unbeliever says, was an enthusiast; and by this he means to assert that he was actuated by errors of which he was himself the dupe, and bewildered by the fumes which rose into his mind from the heat of an ardent but feeble breast. With whom ought the adjudication of such a question to rest? With those who know, or those who know not, his character and the character of his religion? If, as is not only proper but imperative, the appeal should be made to those who have had personal experience in this matter; if the nature of our undertaking left us at liberty to address ourselves to Christian men and women, there would be no need to employ argument; a few simple questions would terminate the matter, or rather the feelings which arise spontaneously in the Christian breast at the very supposition of Jesus' being an enthusiast-feelings which, by their own simplicity and truthfulness, their accordance with the genuine and unsophisticated workings of the breast-feelings which are an echo of the good which Christ and Christianity have proved to the character, are most certain vouchers of the
godly sincerity and unimpaired soundness of the mind and soul of Jesus. Surely it would be strange if what the master intellects of the race not only approved, but made the formative influence of their character if the spring whence they drank the living waters which they poured forth for the refreshment and renovation of successive generations, were tainted and turbid by reason of unwholesome mixtures. Did Milton, and Locke, and Newton, mistake darkness for light, and the impurities of fanaticism for the cleansing power of the spirit of truth? And though our business is with the objector, and not the disciple, we think that unbelief itself may be benefitted by pondering the testimony to the genuineness of the character of Christ which they afford, who are believers, not on authority but on conviction; and who are no less the ornaments of humanity, than they were the humble disciples of the crucified Galilean.
But argument may avail when testimony is repudiated; and it is a principle of Christianity for every man to judge of himself what is right;—and this is our first position. Jesus appealed to the judgment, not to the passions of his auditory. The question of his being an enthusiast was mooted in his own day. hath a demon, and is mad,' was the allegation of some. words themselves present a consideration sufficient to impeach the soundness of the judgment of those who used them. Madness they ascribed to demoniacal possession. The vulgar error has been long exploded; and they who were weak enough to ascribe madness to a false and imaginary origin, may well have been mistaken in the cause they assign for the conduct of Jesus. At all events, they have but sorry pretensions to influence our decision. If, in a matter of constant recurrence before their eyes, they blundered so egregiously, as to refer insanity to the influence of the souls of the dead on the faculties of the living, they can hardly be expected to have philosophised correctly respecting the origin of mental and moral qualities which had never before been seen on earth, and with which they had scarcely a germ of correspondence in their own breasts. With the explosion of their error in physics, their yet grosser error in morals ought to perish too. But what was the answer to the allegation of insanity against Christ? These are not the words of him that hath a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?' Here is the expression of the form in which Jesus presented himself to the less ignorant and prejudiced of his contemporaries. It was not as the prince of darkness,' but as the light of the world.' The evidence of the soundness of his mind was in his works and in his words. We shall not dwell on the indirect testimony thus borne to the reality of his miracles, because, although that testimony is valuable from the very circumstance of its being indirect, and also from the correctness