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man, has not been sufficiently diffused, since it has been fashionable to extol natural religion, by depreciating grace; and the result has been, a deplorable profligacy both in principle and practice.
How devoutly then is it to be wished, that this true spirit may revive; that the divine influence of the genuine gospel' may again prevail, and melt! the heart of steel, and bow the stubborn knees of the men of the world, and the wise men whom the world admires ? Behold them pursuing their own : petty, selfish, sordid purposes, regardless of all others, but as they serve their own interest or plea : sure; neither loving God nor man, and depraved to a nature almost diabolical, by habits of fashionable voluptuousness, selfishness, and cruelty, authorized by the most illustrious examples in high life. Behold this diabolical character transforming itself to an angel of light, by studied embellishments and polished manners, in which truth, honour, and benevolence are assumed as a cloak to cover the basest treachery, and the vilest arts of dissimulation. Behold this character recommended, with all the charms of language, by one of the first noblemen, wits, and writers of the times, as the mark of the most solid wisdom; behold it, in consequence of recommendation so powerful, spreading among the youth of the nation, and diffusing a polished, splendid misery, like the shining appear.
whom Christ addresses in these words : - Ye shut up the king. dom of heaven against men ; for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.'—Matt. xxiii.
But while God's eternal truth is its foundation, and God's Holy Spirit its guard, neither violence nor treachery can subvert the kingdom of heaven.
ance which is seen on masses of corruption and putrescence. "Ye are the salt of the earth,' says our Saviour; evidently meaning the salt that is to preserve the world from a corrupt state, by becoming the means of grace to those who hear you preach and teach the true doctrine. How is he then the friend of man, or of his country, who obstructs the prevalence of such doctrine ? Yet men, apparently good and learned, have united with the unprincipled, in placing every obstacle in the way of its diffusion among the people.
The grace of God is favourable to the tranquillity and security of the state; to the community, as well as to individuals, by teaching virtue of the most beneficial kind under the strongest sanction. • The grace of God,' says the apostle, “teaches us to deny all ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world.' Yet against the prevalence of this grace of God, many pens and tongues have been employed during the last fourscore years; the pens and tongues, not of profligate infidels only, but of divines, teaching, for Christianity, a moral system of philosophy, well known' long before the nativity of Christ; and
1 Yet the heathens themselves, mere moralists as they are often considered, had an idea of the divine energy. Remarkable are the words of Maximus Tyrius.
“ Do you wonder that God was present with Socrates, friendly, and prophetic of futurity,—an inmate of his mind ?-A man, he was, pure in his body, good in his soul, exact in the conduct of his life, masterly in thinking, eloquent in speaking, pious towards God, and holy towards men.”
The doctrine of divine assistance, or of the immediate operation of the heavenly Spirit on the mind of man, is so far from unreasonable, that it was maintained by some of the greatest masters of reason, before the appearance of Christianity.
The heathens did not affirm that the knowledge they possessed of theology was derived to them from reason ; for Plato ex
thus rendering, as far as their efforts could prevail, his gospel a superfluous, and even ugly excrescence upon it. There is a kind of wisdom, we are told on the best authority, which descendeth not from
pressly says it is OEWV Elç ay pwrog dools, the gift of the gods to men—the effect of divine communication. They deemed it supernatural, that reason should discover the will of God; a gift above nature, (owpeav vīTEP PUOLV vikwOAV mnv dvolv,) and overcoming nature in its present state of imbecility. The dead may as easily arise and walk, as the mind of man, fallen, as it is, into a spiritual death, raise itself to God and a divine life. Nothing can enable man to do those things which are above his natural powers, but supernatural aid, and that must come from the in. fluence of the Deity.
It is, however, worth while to mark the discordant and inconsistent opinions of celebrated heathens on the subject of divine assistance. Seneca, Epist. 41.-" No man is a good man with. . out the assistance of God."
Deus in humano corpore hospitans. Epist. 31.—6 God dwelling in the human body.”
Yet this same philosopher says, in another place, Est aliquid quo sapiens antecedat Deum. Ille naturæ beneficio, non suo, sapiens est. « In one respect a philosopher excels God. God is obliged to nature for his wisdom, and cannot help being so. The philosopher thanks himself only.” Epist. 53.
Atque hoc quidem omnes mortales sic habent, externas commoditates, vineta, segetes, oliveta, ubertatem, frugum et fructuum, omnem, denique commoditatem, prosperitatemque vitæ, a Diis se habere; virtutem autem nemo unquam acceptam Deo retulit. Nimirum recte. Propter virtutem enim jure laudamur, et in virtute recte gloriamur. Quod non contingeret, si id donum a Deo, non a nobis haberemus. At vero aut honoribus aucti, aut re familiari, aut si aliud quippiam nacti sumus fortuiti boni. depulimus mali, cum Diis gratias agimus, tum nihil nostræ laudi assumptum arbitramur. Num quis, quod bonus vir esset, gratias Diis egit unquam ? at quod dives, quod honoratus, quod incolumis. Ad rem autem ut redeam, judicium hoc omnium mortalium est, fortunam a Deo petendam, a seipso sumendam esse sapientiam.”-Cicero, de Nat. Deor. lib. ii. c. 36." All mankind hold the opinion, that external advantages, such as vineyards, corn-fields, olive-gardens, abundance of all the various fruits of the earth ; lastly, every thing that tends to the accommodation and prosperity of life, is derived from the gods; but no man ever acknowledged himself indebted to God
above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.'' No wonder that men, who are taught, by their instructors, to pursue this wisdom, and, in effect, to reject the gospel at the very moment they are solemnly professing it, should become (like the wisdom which they cultivate, and which the apostle so strongly reprobates) earthly, sensual, devilish. Much of the profligacy of manners in the present century is to for his virtue. Undoubtedly this judgment is right and reason. able. For we are properly commended for our virtue, and we justly glory in our virtue ; which could not be, if it were a gift of God, and not a possession derived entirely from ourselves. But different is the case when we receive any accession of honour and fortune, or if we get any unlooked-for advantage or avoid any imminent evil ; for then, as we thank God for it, so we assume no merit or praise to ourselves on the occasion.
“ Did any man ever return thanks to the gods that he was a good man? No; he returns thanks to the gods because he is a rich man, because he has received some public honour, or because he enjoys a state of safety.
“ To return then to the point I am maintaining. It is the unanimous opinion of mankind, that success or good fortune in the world is to be sought of God, but that wisdom is to be derived from oneself entirely.”—Cicero de Nat.
Multus et nostra civitas et Græcia tulit singulares viros quorum neminem, nisi juvante Deo, talem fuisse credendum est.Cic. de Nat. Deor. lib. i.- Our country (Rome) as well as Greece has produced many extraordinary men, not one of whom, can I believe, would ever have been such, but by the assistance of God.”
Nemo igitur vir magnus sine aliquo afflatu divino usquam fuit.-Cic. “ No man was ever a great man without something of divine inspiration.”
Hic est quisquam gentis ullius qui ducem naturam nactus ad virtutem pervenire potest? Cic. Leg.--" Is there any man of any country in the world who, by the mere guidance of nature, could attain to virtue ?”
Both Cicero's and Seneca's sentiments on this subject are contradictory.
Axovtai Evvaywvisov grov kai Evilna topos. Max. Tyr. Diss. 22.- “Men stand in need of God as an assistant and cooperator.”
" James, iii. 15.
be attributed to the desertion of the religion of our forefathers, and the teaching of a Christianity which has not the savour of life, and was unknown in England at the Reformation.
* Earthly, sensual, devilish,' are the epithets which the apostle uses : now let us turn from the written book to the living world. Can any im partial observer deny, without affected candour, that there are many whose conduct deserves these epithets ? and can he deny, that they are chiefly among persons who seem to live without God in the world, and to be unbelievers in revelation, though perhaps conformists to the church ? Such persons seem to delight in evil; and, like the being from whom the last of these epithets is taken, to go about, seeking whom they may devour.' No man can be much conversant in any business in the world, especially where there is competition, without meeting with men who hesitate at no falsehood or baseness, and with whom it is never safe to have either conversation or transaction. Plausibly pretending to courteousness, to friendship, to every thing just, right, and amiable, they lie in wait to deceive and to injure. They will do wanton mischief, for its own sake. They will not only demolish the fair fabric of another's happiness, but laugh over the ruins which they have made.
How beneficial would it be for such persons, and
"Read, in the following description from Scripture, how men once degenerated, when estranged from God.
“So that there reigned in all men, without exception, blood, manslaughter, theft and dissimulation; corruption, unfaithfulness, tumults, perjury, disquieting of good men, forgetfulness of good turns, defiling of souls, changing of kind, disorder in marriages, adultery, and shameless uncleanness."—Wisdom, c. xiv. 23—29.