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cised its ferocious authority without restraint; bursting asunder the ties of natural affection, plunging tender infancy in the stream of death, dragging mourning widowhood to the funeral pile, and leaving the decrepitude of age to perish with hunger and nakedness. And where infidelity has so far prevailed in Christian countries, as to obtain a controlling influence over public sentiment and public feeling, its demoralizing and degrading tendency has been seen, and its cruel effects deeply felt. Look at the scenes of the French Revolution-a Revolution, commenced on infidel principles, and conducted by infidel counsels, proclaiming, as it advanced, “death is an eternal sleep;”—Look, and behold the horrid deeds, which such a sentiment could perpetrate, the ferocious spirit, which it could breathe even into the bosom of civilization!
The fact, that the writings of some of the ancient philosophers furnish many good moral lessons, is cheerfully admitted. But it is a fact, not at all inconsistent with our doctrine. For not a few of those relations, on which the duties of life depend, are exceedingly obvious, if not subject to rigid demonstration. Such men as Cicero and Seneca, therefore, could clearly prove, that virtue is honorable, lovely, desirable, and safe; but they could never furnish a sufficient sanction, to ensure obedience to their moral precepts. The motives, drawn from their cold speculations and prudential considerations, were too feeble to resist the strong current of human depravity. Even the philosophers themselves were often overcome by the slightest temptations; and it is at least questionable, whether, in the long catalogue of those, whose eulogized names have come down to us, there can
be found a single example of meekness, forbearance, and disinterested benevolence. I know it is fashionable with those who oppose Christian missions, to praise the virtues both of ancient and modern heathens. But, I ask, what was the character of these virtues? Was there, in them, any thing like selfdenial, humility, disinterestedness, and purity of heart? Pride, ambition, and love of praise seem to have been the basis of the best characters, which heathevism, in its most refined state, ever formed. Even patriotism, the most imposing virtue of Greece and Rome, when analized, will be found to consist more of selfishness than benevolence; to include more of hatred, than love; to exhibit more of enmity to the inhabitants of other countries, than simple concern for the welfare of their own countrymen. I ask again, where are the evidences of their charity? Where are the traces of their eleemosynary provisions and benevolent institutions? These are exclusively the fruits of Christianity. They exist in Christian countries alone. Paganism never founded a hospital, nor opened an alms-house, nor formed a benevolent association, nor undertook an enterprize to meliorate the condition of mankind. It
may be difficult, by a rigid course of induction, to show the precise influence of Christianity on the state of public morals; because it is impossible to point out the precise degree, to which this influence, in any particular age or country, has prevailed. The light of revelation has often been reflected, at least in scattered rays, on distant heathen lands, and there exerted a portion of its life-giving power; and, on the other hand, where its rays have fallen most directly and most copiously, it has sometimes been obscured
by depravity, or obstructed by human inventions and political contrivances. Still an appeal may be safely made to general facts. Look then at Christian countries, where Christianity has existed in its simplest forms, and at individuals living under its purest and highest influence; and compare their morals with those of heathen lands, ancient or modern, savage or civilized. I point you not to those portions of Christendom, that are oppressed by an intolerant ecclesiastical establishment. For such establishments are evidently opposed to the spirit, and inconsistent with the very genius, of the Gospel. Indeed every attempt to prescribe religious forms by civil law, or enforce the observance of religious rites by civil authority, is an encroachment on the prerogatives of heaven, an abridgment of Christian liberty, and a restraint upon the salutary influence of Christian truth.-1 point you not to infidels, even in a free Christian country: For, while they are under some restraint from the indirect influence of Christian example and the force of public opinion, which keeps them back from the grosser crimes of heathenism, their hearts are hardened, their guilt aggravated, their whole characters debased and their wretchedness increased by the abuse of their privileges, by their obstinate rejection of the light, which has come into the world.- I point you not to hypocrites, formalists, and time-servers, who assume the Christian name, and put on the badges of Christianity, for political purposes: For their very profession is an immorality of the grossest character; and the forins and ceremonies, which they hypocritically observe, continually harden their hearts, and ultimately prepare them for the perpetration of the most horrid deeds, and the endurance of the most aggra
vated condemnation. I point you not to those men, who, while they admit the truth of Christianity in the gross, reject its peculiar doctrines in detail; who, while they receive its sacred books, as a revelation from heaven, continually appeal from its decisions, contend for the paramount authority of human reason, and incline to the dictates of their own darkened understandings--who have explained away its mysteries, frittered down its doctrines, curtailed its precepts, and limited its authority, till it differs little from the milder forms of infidelity: For such a system of religion (if enough of positive sentiment remains to constitute a system) cannot much affect the character or happiness of its votaries; it must leave them very much as it found them; it possesses no transforming power; it opens no sure source of consolation; it is a cold, comfortless, inefficient system; and wherever it prevails, it must paralyze the moral energies of society and depress the standard of public morals. I point you not to any of these examples, for a comparison with heathen morality: For none of them furnishes a fair specimen of the influence of Christian truth. They might, perhaps, prove, that Christianity, however distorted and corrupted, is to be preferred to paganism, in its mildest character. They do, indeed, establish the truth, and show the importance of our preliminary observation, that to produce its genuine effects, Christianity must be firmly believed and faithfully regarded in practice; that, before men can be made free from moral pollution by Christian truth, they must believe in Christ, and continue in his word. But I point you, with confidence in the result, to those Christian countries, where no arbitrary restraints are imposed on free inquiry; and to those individuals, who receive the Bible as the word of God,
yield a willing submissiou to its authority, and abide by its decisions, without gainsaying; who have imbibed the spirit of the Gospel and received its peculiar truths in love; who, in the very language of inspiration, have been “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God;” and are, therefore, sincere, experimental, practical Christians. Let the appeal be made here; and let facts decide the question, if in the minds of any it remains a question, what is the moral tendency of Christianity.
III. Let us consider the influence of Christianity on the character and happiness of man, viewed as a member of civil society and a subject of civil government. This view may not at once appear sufficiently distinct from the preceding, to constitute a new topic of discourse. It is true, all the duties of a citizen, in an enlarged sense, are moral duties; and yet it should not be forgotten, that the relations on which they depend, are relations not of individual to individual, but of individuals to the communityrelations, growing out of organized society and civil institutions.
The social nature of man evinces, that he was designed for society; and the necessity of civil regulations to social order, and their subserviency to social happiness, prove, as the Scriptures also teach, that civil government is an ordinance of God.--Now the best forms of government are those, which most effectually secure the safety and prosperity of the whole community, with the least restraint upon personal liberty; and Christianity is happily calculated to diminish the necessity of this restraint, and guard against the dangers and abuses of freedom. By requiring obedience, and inducing obedience to civil authority, “not only for wrath but for conscience