Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

SECTION VII..

The Spirit and laws of Chriflianity fuperior to those of every other religion.

THE morality of the gospel gives it an infinite fuperiority over all fyftems of doctrine that ever were devised by man. Were our lives and opinions to be regulated as it prescribes, nothing would be wanting to make us happy; there would be no injustice, no impiety, no diforderly paffions. Harmony and love would univerfally prevail. Every man, content with his lot, refigned to the Divine will, and fully perfuaded that a happy eternity is before him, would pass his days in tranquillity and joy, to which neither anxiety, nor pain, nor even the fear of death, could ever give any interruption. The beft fyftems of Pagan ethics are very imperfect, and not free from abfurdity; and in them are recommended modes of thinking unfuitable to human nature, and modes of conduct which, though they might have been useful in a political view, did not tend to virtue and happiness univerfal. But of all our Lord's inflitutions the object is, to promote the happiness by promoting the virtue of all mankind.

In the next place; his peculiar doctrines are not like any thing of human contrivance. "Never-mar. fpake like this man." One of the first names given to that difpenfation of things which he came to introduce, was the kingdom, or the reign, of heaven. It was justly fo called; being thus diftinguifhed, not only from the religion of Mofes, the fanctions whereof related to the present life, but alfo from every human scheme of moral, political or ecclefiaftical legiflation.

The views of the heathen moralift extended not beyond this world; those of the chriftian are fixed on that which is to come. The former was concerned for his own country only or chiefly; the latter takes concern in the happiness of all men, of all nations, conditions, and capacities. A few, and but a few, of the ancient philofophers, fpoke of a future ftate of retribution as a thing defirable, and not improba ble revelation fpeaks of it as certain; and of the prefent life as a Itate of trial wherein virtue or holinefs is neceffary, not only to entitle us to that falvation which, through the mercy of God and the merits of his Son, chriftians are taught to look for, but also to prepare us, by habits of piety and benevolence, for a reward, which none but the pare in heart can receive or could relish.

The duties of piety, as far as the heart is concerned, were not much attended to by the heathen lawgivers. Cicero coldly ranks them with the focial virtues, and says very little about them. The facrifices were mere ceremony. And what the Stoics taught of refignation to the will of Heaven, or to the decrees of fate, was fo repugnant to fome of their other tenets, that little good could be expect ed from it. But of every chriftian virtue, piety is an effential part. The love and the fear of God must every moment prevail in the heart of a follower of Jefus ; and whether he eat or drink, or whatever he do, it must all be to the glory of the Creator. How different this from the philofophy of Greece and Rome!

[ocr errors]

"The

In a word, the heathen morality, even in its beft form,
that is, as two or three of their best philofophers taught it,
amounts to little more than this: "Be ufeful to yourselves,
your friends, and your country; fo fhall you be respectable
while you live, and honoured when you die; and it is to
be hoped you may receive a reward in another life." The
language of the chriftian lawgiver is different.
world is not worthy of the ambition of an immortal being.
Its honours and pleafures have a tendency to debate the
mind, and difqualify it for future happiness. Set there-
fore your affections on things above, and not on things
on the earth. Let it be your fupreme defire to obtain the
favour of God; and, by a courfe of difcipline, prepare
yourselves for a re-admiffion into that rank which was for-
feited by the fall, and for being again but a little lower
than the angels, and crowned with glory and honour ever-
lafting."

What an elevation must it give to our pious affections,
to contemplate the Supreme Being, and his providence, as
revealed to us in Scripture! We are there taught, that
man was created in the image of God, innocent and happy:
and that he had no fooner fallen into fin. than his Creator,
instead of abandoning him, and his offspring, to the natur-
al confequences of his difobedience, and of their hereditary
depravity, was pleafed to begin a wonderful difpenfation
of grace, in order to refcue from perdition, and raise again
to happiness, as many as fhould acquiefce in the terms of
the offered falvation, and regulate their lives accordingly.

By the facred books that contain the history of this dif penfation, we are further taught that God is a fpirit, unchangeable and eternal, univerfally prefent, and abfolutely

perfect; that it is our duty to fear him, as a being of confummate purity and inflexible justice, and to love him as the Father of mercies, and the God of all confolation: to truft in him as the friend, the comforter, and the almighty guardian of all who believe and obey him; to rejoice in him as the best of Beings, and adore him as the greateft-We are taught, that he will make allowance for the frailties of our nature, and pardon the fins of thofe who repent and, that we may fee, in the strongest light his peculiar benignity to the human race, we are taught, that he gave his only Son as our ranfom and deliverer; and we are not only permitted, but commanded, to pray to him, and addrefs him as our Father :-we are taught, moreover, that the evils incident to this state of trial are permitted by him, in order to exercise our virtue, and prepare us for a future ftate of never ending felicity; and that thefe momentary afflictions are pledges of his paternal love, and fhall, if we receive him as fuch, and venerate him accordingly, work out for us "an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory." If thefe hopes and these fentiments contribute more to our happinefs, and to the purification of our nature, than any thing else in the world can do, furely that religion to which alone we owe these fentiments and hopes, must be the greatest bleffing that ever was conferred on the pofterity of Adam.

Christianity propofes to our imitation the highest examples of benevolence, purity, and piety. It fhows, that all our actions, purposes, and thoughts, are to us of infinite importance; their confequences being nothing lefs than happiness or misery in the life to come and thus it ope rates most powerfully on our felf love. By teaching, that all mankind are brethren; by commanding us to love our neighbour as ourfelves; and by declaring every man our neighbour, to whom we have it in our power to do good, it improves benevolence to the highest pitch. By prohibiting revenge, malice, pride, vanity, envy, fenfuality, and covet oufnefs; and by requiring us to forgive, to pray for, and to blefs our enemies, and to do to others as we would that they fhould do to us, it lays a restraint on every malevolent and turbulent paffion; and reduces the whole of focial virtue to two or three precepts ; fo brief, that they cannot be forgotten, fo plain that they cannot be mifunderstood; fo reafonable,that no man of fenfe controverts them; and fo well fuited to human nature. and human affairs, that every candid may eafily, and on all occafions, apply them to practice.

Christianity recommends the strictest felf-attention, by this awful confideration, that God is continually present with us, knows what we think, as well as what we do, and will judge the world in righteoufnefs, and render unto every man according to his works. It makes us confider confcience, as his voice and law within us; purity of heart, as that which alone can qualify us for the enjoyment of future reward; and mutual love, or charity, as that without which all other virtues and accomplishments are of no value and, by a view of things peculiarly triking, it caufes vice to appear a molt pernicious and abominable thing, which cannot escape punishment. In a word, "Chriftianity," as Bifhop Taylor well obferves, "is a doctrine in which nothing is fuperfluous or burdenfome; and in which there is nothing wanting, which can procure happiness to mankind, or by which God can be glorified."

DR. REATTIE.

SECTION VIII.

The vifion of Carazan: Or, focial love and beneficence re

commended.

CARAZAN, the merchant of Bagdat, was eminent throughout all the east for his avarice and his wealth: his origin is obfcure, as that of the fpark which by the collifion of fteel and adamant is ftruck out of darkness; and the patient labour of perfevering diligence alone had made him rich. It was remembered, that when he was indigent he was thought to be generous and he was ftill acknowledged to be inflexibly juft. But whether in his dealings with men, he difcovered a perfidy which tempted him to put his truft in gold, or whether in proportion as he accumulated wealth, he difcovered his own importance to increase, Carazan prized it more as he used it lefs: he gradually loft the inclination to do good, as he acquired the power; and as the hand of time fcattered fnow upon his head, the freezing influence extended to his bofom.

But though the door of Carazan was never opened by hofpitality, nor his hand by compaffion, yet fear led him conftantly to the mofque at the ftated hours of prayer: he performed all the rites of devotion with the moft fcrupulous punctuality, and had thrice paid his vows at the temple of the prophet. That devotion which arifes from the love of God, and neceffarily includes the love of man, as it connects gratitude with beneficence, and exalts that which is

moral to divine, confers new dignity upon goodness, and is the object not only of affection, but reverence. On the contrary, the devotion of the felfish, whether it be thought to avert the punishment which every one wishes to be inflicted, or to enfure it by the complication of hypocrify with guilt, never fails to excite indignation and abhorrence. Carazan, therefore, when he had locked his door, and turning round with a look of circumfpective fufpicion, proceeded to the mofque, was followed by every eye with filent malignity; the poor fufpended their fupplication when he paffed by ; though he was known by every man, yet no man faluted him.

Such had long been the life of Carazan, and fuch was theharacter which he had acquired, when notice was given by proclamation, that he was removed to a magnificent building in the centre of the city. that his table fhould be fpread for the public, and that the ftranger fhould be wel come to his bed. The multitude foon rufhed like a torrent to his door, where they beheld him diftributing bread to the hungry, and apparel to the naked, his eye foftened with compaffion, and his cheek glowing with delight. Ev ery one gazed with astonishment at the prodigy; and the murmur of innumerable voices increasing like the found of approaching thunder, Carazan beckoned with his hand attention fufpended the tumult in a moment; and he thus gratified the curiofity which procured him audience.

"To him who touches the mountains and they smoke, the Almighty and the most merciful, be everlasting honour! he has ordained fleep to be the minister of inftruction, and his vifions have reproved me in the night. As I was fitting alone in my harum, with my lamp burning before me, computing the product of my merchandise, and exulting in the increase of my wealth, I fell into a deep fleep, and the hand of him who dwells in the third heaven was upon me. I beheld the angel of death coming forward like a whirlwind, and he fmote me before I could deprecate the blow. At the fame moment I felt myfelf lifted from the ground, and tranfported with aftonifhing rapidity through the regions of the air. The earth was contracted to an atom beneath; and the stars glowed round me with a luftrethat obfcured the fun. The gate of Paradife was now in fight; and I was intercepted by a fudden brightness which no human eye could behold. The irrevocable fentence was now to be pronounced; my day of probation was past;

« ПредишнаНапред »