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This it is which forms a good heart, and a good heart is a land of Canaan to itself, a land flowing with milk and honey.
All the irascible passions are, in their excess, diabolical. They are the fruitful sources of misery. They would unparadise the garden of Eden, and turn the cheerful light of heaven into gloomy darkness, like the shadow in the valley of death. There is in the world much natural evil; there are pains, and diseases enough, to wean the heart from the immoderate love of it; but none of them are productive of wretchedness so great and difficult of cure as the malignant passions of pride, envy, and revenge. These estrange man from man, and convert the haunts of human creatures into dens of foxes and wolves. Cheats, calumniators, robbers, murderers, in all their variety and degrees of flagitiousness, are characters naturally flowing from
(the words of God,) I will render him as gentle as a lamb. Give me a greedy, miserly, close-fisted man; and I will presently return him to you a generous creature, freely bestowing his money by handfuls. Give me a cruel, blood-thirsty wretch ; instantly his ferocity shall be transformed to a truly mild and merciful disposition. Give me an unjust man, a foolish man, a sinful man ; and on a sudden, he shall become honest, wise, and virtuous. In one laver (the laver of regeneration) all his wicked. ness shall be washed away. So great is the efficacy of the divine (or Christian) philosophy, that when once admitted into the human heart, it expels folly, the parent of all vice; and in accomplishing this great end, there is no occasion for any expense, no absolute need of books or deep and long study or meditation. The benefit is conferred gratuitously, easily, expeditiously ; provided that the ears and the heart thirst after the wisdom (from above.) Did any, or could any, of the heathen philosophers accomplish such important purposes as these ?”
Thus appears the superiority of Christian philosophy, in a moral view, over all other philosophy. Lactantius had been a heathen philosopher, and speaks experimentally.
hearts unsoftened, unenlightened, unhallowed by the Spirit of grace.
But behold the Christian. Gentleness and sweetness beam from his eyes, and illumine his countenance with a mild lustre. Good humour predominates in all his demeanour. He has no concealed rage rankling in his bosom; he has no sinister and selfish views, under a studied openness of countenance. He converses with a generous frankness. His bosom is transparent. You are perfectly safe with him. He will serve you, if possible, as well as please you; but he will never injure you purposely, or give you the smallest pain. He feels complacency in all the good he sees around him, and delights in augmenting it. His treasure is within him. His interest is in heaven. His ambition is for objects above the world; so that nothing in it is of value enough, in his estimation, to tempt him to resign the tranquillity of innocence, to renounce the pleasures of a friendly and benevolent disposition. He has all the ingenuous simplicity of the infantine age, and you delight in him, as in the harmless babe, who sports around you, and expresses his pains and pleasures according to the dictates of uncorrupted nature.
Such is man, when his natural asperities are smoothed, and his inborn bitterness sweetened by the benign operation of celestial influence. Compared with the mere natural man, he is an angel. Is it not desirable thus to raise human nature, and thus to improve society; thus to render the earthly existence almost an anticipation of what our imperfect imaginations picture 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 morality? 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 euangelion, 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 to, reason.
1 What news was it to mankind to tell them what Pythagoras, Socrates, Epictetus, Cicero, and many others, had told them be. fore the expediency of moral virtue, justice, temperance, forti. tude ? 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 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. Matt. v. 20. But the righteousness (or morality) of the heathens was that of the Scribes and Pharisees. It was the righteousness of the law, not of the gospel.
2 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 of 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 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 ad. mires, 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