Page images


described in the following terms: "e Fear not them who kill the body : -be'ye steadfast, unmoveable : quit & ye like men, be strong: who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword ? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us.” ” Re. sistance is not forbidden in extraordinary cases: and it may be necessary to exert the quality of personal valour on such occasions. It is certain that it cannot be founded on firmer principles than such as the gospel furnishes; an unshaken adherence to duty, a contempt of death for the benefit of mankind, a submission to God's will, and a reliance on his i Provi. dence and future favour. But Christianity has as little to do with directly commanding and precisely regulating qualities of this kind, as with determining the lawfulness of usury or of war, what crimes shall be capital, what is the best form of civil government, and many other matters of a like nature.

& xvi. 13.

h Rom. viii.

• Matt. 1. 28. 1 Cor. xv. 58. 35, &c. Luke xii.7. Matt. x. 31.




ALL that our Lord advances is resolved by him into the will and authority of God. “He a that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me."

666 Whatsoever I speak, as the Father hath said unto me so I speak.” The will of God, externally declared, is a sufficient ground of moral obligation to all his creatures; because an all wise and absolutely perfect being can only will what is right. A clear perception of duty must likewise induce an obligation on every intelligent being: for God has so framed all such that they are “a law to themselves :" and thus binding them to a particular mode of conduct is ultimately God's act and will, made known in a different manner. Our Lord refers to this principle in human nature when he says, “d Yea and why even of yourselves judge ye not what is right?” However, it is necessary to observe that God does not arbitrarily oblige to any matter of duty ; but his wisdom and will are originally and invariably determined by antecedent fitness.

But our Lord not only convinces our reason that we ought to obey him : he likewise influences our will and affections by motives excellently adapted to our nature. He animates us to acts of benevolence

* Like s. 16. Luke xii. 57.

• John xii. 50.

c Rom. ii. 14. • Matt. v. 45, 48. Luke vi. 36. * Matt. xi. 29. john xiii. 15. * John üi. 16. h John iii. 13.

[ocr errors]

by proposing to our imitation the example of God himself: he exhorts us to follow his own fexample in acts of meekness and lowliness. He leads us to grateful obedience by exhibiting to us both the won. ders 8 of God's love, and his own no less astonishing

acts of love in assuming our nature and laying down his life for us. And he gives us a most affecting inducement to observe his laws when he says, “ Ye are ' my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” He has also unveiled to us the future world; and * assured the righteous of everlasting life, and the wicked of everlasting punishment. He has graciously addressed himself to our imagination and senses on this subject; has'circumstantially described the awful scene; has taught men that he will confess or deny them in the presence of the m angels and of his heavenly Father; and even that he will reward their benevolent actions, and punish their malevolent ones, as if he o himself had been their immediate object.

The means of performing our duty which Christ has granted us come next to be considered. The ordinance of baptism reminds such as are able to reflect on it of their covenant with God, of ° dying to sin, of having their hearts P sprinkled from an evil conscience. The institution of eating bread and

"ib. 31, &c. John v. 28, 29. in Luke xii. 8, 9. Matt. x. 32, 33. A Matt. xxv. 40, 45. • Rom. vi. 4. 1. 22. 1 Pet. iii. 21.

xv. 13.

i ib. xv. 14.

k Matt.

IXV. 46.

p Heb

drinking wine, in remembrance of Christ's body broken and of his blood shed for us, assists reflection, like the former positive rite, by presenting sensible images; and leads us to be duly affected by all that our legislator and benefactor taught and did and suffered. Christ has also assured us that our heav. enly Father will 9 give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him, without any limitation of time : and he thus expresses the same truth figuratively; “Every branch in me that beareth fruit, my Father' pruneth, that it may bring forth more fruit." Christ has also left us God's s sanctifying word of truth ; the words of eternal life spoken by himself, and dictated by that Spirit which he imparted to his disciples : whence may be learnt the most effectual means, and, I believe, all the means of attaining piety and virtue, and of avoiding every kind of moral evil.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]





THE agreeableness of Christ's doctrines and cepts to the attributes of God, and to the reason of mankind, constitutes what is called the internal evidence for the reality of his divine mission ; and this evidence is inuch corroborated by the consideration that, in the midst of a people addicted to ceremonial observances, the preeminence is strongly given to a pure and spiritual worship of the Deity, and to actions of moral obligation. But as it may not exceed the powers of the human mind, especially with the assistance of the Hebrew Scriptures, to frame a rational system of religion and morality, the very superior excellence of what our Lord taught affords only a strong presumption, and not a decisive proof, that he was an embassador of the most High God. The certainty of his heavenly mission is established by external evidence of the most satisfactory kind.

The argument for Christianity, arising from the nature and tendency of its doctrinal and preceptive parts, will appear in the strongest light to those who best understand the books which contain them; and it will always be impaired in proportion as unscriptural notions of them prevail. Misrepresentations of them obstructed the reception of the gospel among mankind in general, and especially among philosoph. ical and thinking men. It is rightly presumed that

« PreviousContinue »