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of the heavenly? Heathen philosophy cannot effect it. Heathen philosophy is confined to a few, in comparison with the myriads that compose the great mass of human beings: who weary themselves in pursuit of happiness on this terraqueous globe. The experiment has been tried by the philosophers of all ages, and failed. But religion can effect it. Yet what religion? A religion founded on historical faith, and heathen mythology? No; it must be a vital religion-a divine influence on the heart, which is plainly promised and announced in the glad tidings of the gospel. This is the true cuan, gelion, or GOOD NEWS*, to the human race. It is authenticated by the written gospel, and there is a witness within us which renders it unquestionable. Happy they who have obeyed the voice which commands, saying, "My son, give me thy HEART!" When the heart is devoted to Christ, the understanding will make no resistance to his doctrines, but humbly acknowledge the most inexplicable mysteries to be above, yet not contrary
* What NEWS was it to mankind to tell them what Pythagoras, Socraties, Epictetus, Cicero, and many others, had told them before the expediency of moral virtue, justice, temperance, fortitude? The glad tidings were the announcing the comfort and assistance of the Holy Ghost, redemption, pardon, peace, and the resurrection. This was an euangelion, or acceptable message brought from heaven by him who had the SPIRIT WITHOUT MEASURE. (John, iii. 34.) Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in NO CASE enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matth. v. 20. But the righteousness (or morality) of the heathens was that of the Scribes and PhariIt was the righteousness of the law, not of the gospel. + Proverbs, xxiii. 26.
On the superior Morality of the Christian Philosophy.
THE operation of divine grace being no other
than the melioration of our hearts, the purifying of the very fountain of our actions, it must of necessity lead to the practice of virtue, or, in the language of scripture, to GOOD WORKS. It is a gross calumny to say that the true doctrine of grace is unfavourable to morality. It inevitably produces every thing that is lovely and useful in social intercourse. The Holy Spirit's residence in the heart is inconsistent with vice and malevolence. It requires, indispensably, both personal purity and social love: and they who endeavour to obtain it, must begin and persevere in the practice of every moral virtue.
The love of God and mankind are the two main springs which actuate every Christian, who is regenerated by grace.
The love of God was not enforced by heathen philosophy. The love of man was indeed frequently, though feebly, recommended; but at the same time, many dispositions of mind were held honourable, and worthy of cultivation, which are often inconsistent with the love of man. Such are valour in offensive war, revenge, love of glory, and of conquest.
The love of God must have the most favourable influence on moral conduct; for no obedience is so perfect as that which arises from affection. It is the alert, cordial, sincere obedience of a dutiful child to a tender parent, It anticipates his will, and is desirous, in its honest zeal to please, of going even beyond the line prescribed by parental authority.
And what is the love of God, but the love of goodness, purity, rectitude? Love not only admires, but endeavours to imitate, the object of its affection. The love of God, therefore, produces a conduct as godlike as the condition of infirm humanity can admit. Hence St. John says, very strongly and truly, "This is the "LOVE of GOD, that we keep his commandments*." It is a natural and unavoidable consequence of loving the supreme perfection, that we imitate the qualities in which it consists-purity, justice, mercy, every thing that we can conceive of permanent goodness and beauty. Such is the first hinge of Christian morality.
And the second resembles it, in its benign effects on human nature, and the state of society.
It is the love of our fellow-creature; not merely FRIENDSHIP, which is often founded only on petty interest and mutual amusement; but universal philanthropy, extending even to enemies. Every man under the operation of this liberal affection, is considered and cherished as a FRIEND and neighbour. We are taught to love them as ourselves, and to do to them as we wish they should do to us.
This extensive law of love is peculiar to our lawgiver, the blessed Jesus. He calls it a new commandment. He makes it the distinguishing characteristic of the gospel. He proposes his own example, to enforce obedience to it. "This is my commandment," says he, "that ye love one another as I have loved yout."
But neither the love of God nor the love of man will exist in our hearts, in a due degree of ardour or sincerity, without the divine influence. The natural man loves the world and himself too well, to admit, whatever he may pretend or profess, affections so liberal, sublime, and disinterested. He loves MAMMON more
* 1 John, v. 3.
† John xv. 12.
than God; and as for the love of his fellow-creatures, he wears a false appearance of it, a studied politeness, courteousness, and affability, for the sake of availing himself of their assistance in gratifying avarice, ambition, and the love of pleasure; but he hates, envies, or utterly neglects, all who contribute neither to his sordid gain, nor to his personal gratification. Grace alone can soften and liberalize his contracted bosom. Grace alone can render him sincerely, secretly, and impartially virtuous; and the best Christian is the best member of civil society.
Let him who doubts the excellence of Christian morality, read our Saviour's sermon on the mount, with the discourses formed upon it by Blair*, Blackall, and other great divines of the English church. He will be struck with its pre-eminent beauty and utility. Indeed the whole body of English sermons founded on the gospel, exhibits a system of morality which the world never saw before, and which would never have existed without the evangelical code. I earnestly recommend to general perusal Bishop Gastrell's little book, intitled, Christian Institutes.
The true Genius and Spirit of Christianity productive of a certain Tenderness of Conscience, or feeling of Rectitude, more favourable to right Conduct, than any Deductions of unassisted Reason, or heathen Morality.
A MAN, rightly disposed by the influence of
genuine Christianity, becomes a law unto himself, in all circumstances and situations. A DIVINE TEMPER,
James Blair, M.A. President of William and Mary College in America.
superinduced by divine energy on the heart, produces right conduct, just as a tree grafted with a kindly scion, brings forth fruit both delicious and salutary, under the natural operation of showers and sunshine.
A true Christian has constantly impressed upon his mind a sense of God's presence, and a conviction that he is responsible to his Father in heaven for all his conduct. This keeps him in awe, mixed with love. He fears to do wrong, not with a servile fear, but an affectionate reverence for his all-powerful friend, who has shewn him great favour, and at the same time required, in return for it, obedience to his injunctions, as a condition of his continuance. He loves God from his heart; an affection, which comprehends in it the love of every thing that is good in moral conduct, every thing pure and holy in his own person, every thing beneficent to society.
The residence of the Holy Ghost in the Christian's heart increases his moral sensibility. He sees with greater acuteness the good and beautiful* in behaviour; he feels with additional vivacity the emotions of benevolence. It gives him pain, it does violence to his very nature, thus sublimed, to act basely, unjustly, unkindly. He knows that the divine principle within him will not inhabit a polluted shrine; but will take offencet and depart, if the temple be profaned by immorality.
Casuistry, or long and abstruse reasonings on the moral fitness or unfitness of actions, are totally unnecessary to the man whom the heavenly teacher has instructed. His determinations admit not such cold delay or doubtful hesitation. His heart turns, like the needle to the pole, with tremulous, yet certain propensity, to the point of rectitude. From the infirmity of
† Res delicata est Dei Spiritus. TERTULL