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We see Christians hating, instead of loving one another; separating, when they should unite; conflicting, when they should co-operate; causing the limitation of the gospel, when they might ensure its extension: they have burned with the fires of persecution, when they should have warmed with the glow of charity; they have been tyrants by penal laws, when they should have been brethren by the law of love; they have anathematized, when they should have blessed;-and what breeds all this confusion, but the corruptions of Christianity!
Yes; they have crushed the mind of man, and waged exterminating war with truth and charity: they have dethroned the Saviour, and given the sovereignty of the church, delegated by God to him alone, to tyrants, priests, and partizans: they have polluted the temple with unhallowed worship, and bartered the word of God for wealth, or made it a stepping-stone to seats of power. Ought not this evil spirit to be laid-to be bound in chains for ever? This consummation is promised. The Babylon of the Apocalypse was utterly destroyed. The entranced apostle heard the shout of righteous exultation, "as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”
Paul gives a like cheering prospect in his pro
phecy of the "man of sin, that Wicked, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of his mouth, and destroy with the brightness of his coming." And here is, probably, an allusion to the word of God, as the means by which that event shall be accomplished. The study, examination, and diffusion of the Scriptures, must be fatal ultimately to all unfounded pretensions, all errors in doctrine and worship, all unchristian practices. It is by the devout study of the word of God that both the individual and the world must be enlightened, reformed, improved, and led on towards perfection. Let me exhort every one seriously to inquire of those oracles, that if there be any thing anti-christian in his opinions, feelings, or conduct, it may be destroyed.
Read the Bible, and you will own no Master but Christ, You will see that he alone was commissioned of God to speak the words of eternal life, and that by yourself they must be interpreted for yourself. You will repel the dictation of man, in however elevated a station, as an insulting interference between the Teacher and the disciple. You will prefer the simplicity of apostolic teaching, to the mysteries of modern orthodoxy; the genuine creed of Paul, "There is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus," to the forged creed of Athanasius. Instead of repeating, in the spirit of bigotry, "Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is
necessary that he hold the Catholic faith; which faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly :" you will affirm, in the spirit of charity, "God is no respecter of persons, but in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him." Instead of addressing prayers to the Son, the Holy Ghost, the Trinity, you will "bow your knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ:" instead of a gloomy and a capricious Deity, you will have a God who is love: and for a system which derives support from penal statutes, or political patronage, or which exists by exciting childish terrors, and shunning or stifling examination, you will have principles which are advancing in defiance of all these, holding on a triumphant course, and shining brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.
The flame of free inquiry is kindled; and while the precious things of truth, liberty, and righteousness, will abide its purifying operation, all else is doomed to perish in the conflagration. But this bright prospect belongs to a subsequent part of our Course. To delineate the evil, is our first and painful task; nor is it useless. Disgust with error may invigorate our love of truth. The enormities of bigotry are a foil to the beauty of benevolence; while the degradation of religious slavery teaches impressively that we should "stand fast in the liberty wherewith
Christ has made us free, and not be entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Direful as their influence has been, the corruptions of Christianity have less of evil than the genuine gospel has of good: they should endear it to our hearts, as the best gift of God; the pledge of human improvement, peace and happiness here, and of immortality and blessedness hereafter.
ACTS xix. 15:
Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
THESE words are as applicable to systems as to persons. They consist of an assertion, and a question; and though attributed to an evil spirit, the assertion was true, and the question pertinent. And that spirit, though submissive to Christ or his apostle, was too strong for the priestly impostors who assumed their name without authority. I take the verse as a motto, and without further application, proceed to the subject of this evening's Lecture.
Comparing the language of Daniel with that of the Apostles John and Paul, in several distinct predictions, the characteristics of the apostacy which was to take place in the Christian Church, have appeared to be spiritual tyranny; alliance with temporal authority; mystery; idolatrous worship; blasphemy; hypocrisy, deceit, and af fected austerity; and persecution. To these