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The words of scripture are spirit and life. They are the language of love. Every exhortation of Christ and his apostles is impregnated with this spirit. Let the reader turn to the 12th chapter to the Romans, for an example, and read it carefully; let him find, if he can, any thing, in the purest part of the writings of Deists, that is worthy of being compared with it. No; virtue itself is no longer virtue in their hands. It loses its charms when they affect to embrace it. Their touch is that of the cold hand of death. The most lovely object is deprived by it of life and beauty, and reduced to a shrivelled mass of inactive formality.
CHRISTIANITY FURNISHES MOTIVES TO A VIRTUOUS LIFE; WHICH DEISM EITHER REJECTS, OR ATTEMPTS TO UNDERMINE.
So long as our adversaries profess a regard to virtue, and, with Lord Bolingbroke,* acknowledge that "the gospel is in all cases one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, of benevolence, and of universal charity," they must allow those to be the best principles which furnish the most effectual motives for reducing it to practice.
Now, there is not a doctrine in the whole compass of Christianity but what is improveable to this purpose. It is a grand pe culiarity of the gospel, that none of its principles are merely speculative each is pregnant with a practical use. Nor does the discovery of it require any extraordinary degree of ingenuity: real Christians, however weak as to their natural capacities, have always been taught by the gospel of Christ, that denying ungodliness, and worldly lusts, they should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present world.
Ancient philosophers have taught many things in favour of morality, so far at least as respects justice and goodness towards our fellow-creatures'; but where are the motives by which the minds of the people, or even their own minds, have been moved to a compliance with them? They framed a curious machine; but who among them could discover a power to work it? What principles have appeared in the world, under the names either of philosophy or religion, that can bear a comparison with the following? God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.-Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil-speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.-Be ye therefore followers (or imitators) of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet-smelling savour.—Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.-Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive and will be a Father unto you, and ye you, shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.-Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. -If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy :-be of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul: having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirits which are God's.-The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him who died for them, and rose again.-The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall
be burnt up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be, in all holy conversation and godliness; looking for, and hasting unto the coming of the day of God!—Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. ---To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.
These are motives by which Christians in every age, have been induced to practice that morality which, while writing against Christianity, Paine, Bolingbroke, and many others have been compelled to applaud. But the far greater part of them are rejected by Deists; and what will they substitute, of equal efficacy, in their place? The love of Christ constraineth us, but what have they to constrain them? Will self-love, or the beauty or utility of virtue answer the purpose? Let history and observation determine.
It may be alleged, however, that Deists do not reject the whole of these important motives; for that some, at least, admit the doctrine of a future life, which, with the acknowledgment of one living and true God, may be thought sufficient for all the purposes of morality.
That the doctrine of a future life is of great importance in the moral system, is allowed; but the greatest truth, if dissevered from other truths of equal importance, will be divested of its energy. As well might a hand dissevered from the body be represented as sufficient for the purposes of labour, as one or two unconnected principles for the purposes of morality. This is actually the case in the present instance. The doctrine of a future life, as held by Christians, has stimulated them to labour and suffer without intermission. From a respect to this recompense of reward, a kingdom had been refused, where the acceptance of it would have interfered with a good conscience. Yea, life itself has been sacrificed, and that not in a few, but in innumerable instances, where it could not be retained but at the expense of truth and uprightness. But is it thus among Deists? Does the doctrine of a future life as held by them, produce any such effects? When was it known, or heard, that they sacrificed any thing for this, or any
other principle of a moral nature? Who among them ever thought
of such a thing; or who expected it at their hands?
But this is not all:
here s such a connexion in truth, that if one part of it be given up, it will render us less friendly towards other parts, and so destroy their efficacy. This also is actually the case in the present instance. Our adversaries do not cordially embrace even this truth; but on the contrary, are continually undermining it, and rendering it of no effect. Lord Herbert, it is true, considered it as an essential article of natural religion; and it was his opinion, that he could scarcely be accounted a reasonable creature who denied it: but this is far from being the case with later deistical writers; the greater part of whom either deny it, or represent it as a matter of doubt. Some of them disown every principle by which it is supported, and others go so far as to hold it up to ridicule, labouring withal to prove the hope of it unfriendly to the disinterested love of virture. Volney, in his Law of Nature, or Catechism for French Citizens, says nothing about it. Paine just touches upon it, in his Age of Reason, by informing us that "he hopes for happiness beyond this life" but, as happiness has its counterpart, and stands upon the general doctrine of retribution, he is afraid to say he believes it. It must be reduced to a mere matter of "probability," lest the thoughts of it should damp him in his present pursuits, and render him "the slave of terror."* Bolingbroke, though he acknowledges its antiquity, and great utility in promoting virtue, yet represents it as a "mere invention of philosophers, and legislators," and as being "originally an hypothesis, and which may, therefore, be a vulgar error." "Reason," he says, "will neither affirm nor deny a future state." By this the reader might be led to expect that this writer was neither for it nor against it; yet the whole of his reasonings are directed to undermine it.† Hume, like the writer last mentioned, acknowledges the utility of the doctrine, but questions its truth. He would not have people disabused, or delivered from such a prejudice, because it would free them from one restraint
* Age of Reason, Part I. p. 1.
Part II. pp. 100, 101.