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tract.- False Pride.- Conceited Wisdom.- Giving Attention
They should be encouraged. — Difficulties. — Benefits
– Who should join in its Observance. - Scruples and Doubts
FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT.
1. Love. Apostle's Definition of it. — Its universal Application.
Lack of it among Christians in past Ages. — Bigotry of
Mistake in Living. – 6. GOODNESS. Definition. — Benevo-
of these Virtues. - Meekness not opposed to moral Courage.
- Bishop Hall’s Remarks. -9. TEMPERANCE. Meaning of the
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
The wonder has often been expressed, why there should be so much controversy in the world on the subject of religion. This wonder, however, would have been lessened, had religious partisans, on all sides, instead of wrestling with their utmost strength to sustain their own doctrinal creeds, applied themselves diligently to the work of searching out the best principles to operate on the human heart, following them up to their great source, and ascertaining how they should be disseminated among men to the best advantage. After all that learning can suggest, and deep wisdom utter, the good practical sense of mankind is able to judge in relation to these subjects; and had it been duly consulted in past ages, there would not have existed so much selfishness, bigotry, and persecution in the ranks of Christian professors, nor so much secret and open opposition to the cause of the Redeemer, by the ignorant and unbelieving. A religion, that is not equally good in practice as in
theory, cannot be a reasonable or useful one, whoever may defend it, and however great may be the number of those who profess and believe it. It must exist somewhere else besides in a name; and in order to test its utility, men must be drawn to embrace it by some more powerful inducement, than merely its antiquity or its outward associations of greatness.
How then shall the strength and virtue of a religion be tested? The answer is, by its practical effects. Here is something of which men can judge, if their reason is free, — and judge correctly, too. When any religious system is presented to them, they have only to examine its pretensions, and ask themselves what would be its natural effect were it carried into practice; and having found that which meets, in the best manner, the nature and wants of the human race, they need not hesitate to pronounce it the safest to adopt.
We pronounce Christianity the best of all moral systems for adoption among men. We do thus, because we have been educated under its influences. Yet we would not let this consideration be the only one in support of our opinion. We would call for the test, so that others, as well as its professed friends, may give us their views of practical Christianity. We revere this above all other systems, because it is so completely adapted to mankind. No matter where they may be found, or under what circumstances; whether they be Greek or Jew, bond or free; whether they have certain objects of worship, or whether they are destitute of all. If in darkness and ignorance, here is a spirit which can enlighten and instruct them; if partially moralized, this will aid them in a clearer advancement; and if enlightened and refined, this will appear still more attractive and exalting.
And herein do we perceive an insurmountable evidence of the divine origin of Christianity. The words of a bitter and hardened opposer of the Christian faith are, doubtless, true. “No good and amiable heart could for a moment think of yielding its assent to so monstrous an idea, as that error could possibly be useful, — that imposture could be beneficial, — that the heart could be set right by setting the understanding wrong, — that men were to be made rational by being deceived, and rendered just and virtuous by credulity and ignorance."*
To remove all scruples from the minds of those who examine Christianity, we have a rule given by which even the most unlettered individual can be satisfied in respect to its genuineness. The great Teacher himself declares, “If any man will do God's will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” No reasonable mind can object to this. Jesus was willing to rest the claims of his religion on the ground of its practical utility; a course not usually adopted by impostors. Hence, in the light of this direction, we say to the world, let the religion of Jesus Christ be judged of in this manner; let him who would know of God's doctrine, do his will, as that will is revealed in his Son; and then, if he is not wiser, better, happier, and far more exalted in the scale of being than he otherwise would be, he may consider Christianity a delusion, and its author some other person than an inspired messenger of the Most High ; — but not till then.
Imposture shrinks from light,
And dreads the curious eye;
They bid us search and try.”
* Taylor's Diegesis.