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CAUSES OF THE INEFFICACY OF CHRISTIANITY.
JEREMIAH VIII. 22.
"Is there no Balm in Gilead? Is there no Physician there? Why then is not the Health of the Daughter of my People recovered?"
1. THIS question, as here proposed by the Prophet, relates only to a particular people, the children of Israel. But I would here consider it in a general sense, with relation to all mankind. I would seriously inquire, Why has Christianity done so little good in the world? Is it not the balm, the outward means, which the Great Physician has given to men, to restore their spiritual health? Why then is it not restored? You say, Because of the deep and universal corruption of human nature. Most true. But here is the very difficulty. Was it not intended by our all-wise and almighty Creator, to be the remedy for that corruption? A universal remedy for a universal evil; but it has not answered this intention: it never did: it does not answer it at this day. The disease still remains in its full strength; wickedness of every kind; vice, inward and outward, in all its forms, still overspreads the face of the earth.
2. O Lord God, " righteous art thou! Yet let us plead with thee!" How is this? Hast thou forgotten the world thou hast made? Which thou hast created for thy own
glory? Canst thou despise the work of thy own hands, the purchase of thy Son's blood? Thou hast given medicine to heal our sickness; yet our sickness is not healed. Still darkness covers the earth, and thick darkness the people. Yea,
3. What a mystery is this! That Christianity should have done so little good in the world! Can any account of this be given? Can any reasons be assigned for it? Does it not seem that one reason it has done so little good is this, because it is so little known? Certainly it can do no good, where it is not known. But it is not known at this day to the far greater part of the inhabitants of the earth. In the last century, our ingenious and laborious countryman, Mr. › Brerewood, travelled over great part of the known world, on purpose to inquire, so far as was possible, what proportion the Christians bear to the Heathens and Mahometans. And according to his computation, (probably the most accu rate which has yet been made,) I suppose mankind to be divided into thirty parts, nineteen parts of these are still open Heathens, having no more knowledge of Christianity than the beasts that perish. And we may add to these the nume rous nations which have been discovered in the present century. Add to these such as profess the Mahometan Religion, and utterly scorn Christianity; and twenty-five parts out of thirty of mankind are not so much as nominally Christians. So then five parts of mankind out of six are totally ignorant of Christianity. It is, therefore, no wonder that five in six of mankind, perhaps nine in ten, have no advantage from it.
4. But why is it, that so little advantage is derived from it to the Christian world? Are Christians any better than other men? Are they better than Mahometans or Heathens? To say the truth, it is well if they are not worse: worse than either Mahometans or Heathens. In many respects they are abundantly worse, but then they are not properly Christians. The generality of these, though they bear the Christian name, do not know what Christianity is. They no more understand
it than they do Greek or Hebrew; therefore they can be no better for it. What do the Christians, so called, of the Eastern Church, dispersed throughout the Turkish dominions, know of genuine Christianity? Those of the Morea, of Circassia, Mengrelia, Georgia? Are they not the very dregs of mankind? And have we reason to think that those of the Southern Church, those inhabiting Abyssinia, have any more conception than they, of "worshipping God in spirit and in truth?" Look we nearer home. See the Northern Churches, those that are under the patriarch of Moscow. How exceedingly little do they know, either of outward or inward Christianity! How many thousands, yea, myriads of those poor savages, know nothing of Christianity, but the name. How little more do they know than the heathen Tartars on the one hand, or the heathen Chinese on the other!
5. But is not Christianity well known at least to all the inhabitants of the western world? A great part of which is eminently termed Christendom, or the land of Christians. Part of these are still members of the Church of Rome : part are termed Protestants. As to the former, Portuguese, Spaniards, Italians, French, Germans, what do the bulk of them know of scriptural Christianity? Having had frequent opportunity of conversing with many of these, both at home and abroad, I am bold to affirm, that they are in general totally ignorant, both as to the theory and practice of Christianity so that they are perishing by thousands for lack of knowledge, for want of knowing the very first principles of Christianity.
6. "But surely this cannot be the case of the Protestants in France, Switzerland, Germany, and Holland! Much less in Denmark and Sweden!" Indeed I hope it is not altogether. I am persuaded, there are among them many knowing Christians; but I fear we must not think that one in ten, if one in fifty be of this number: certainly not, if we may form a judgment of them, by those we find in Great Britain and Ireland. Let us see how matters stand at our own door. Do the people of England in general, (not the highest or the
lowest; for these usually know nothing of the matter; but people of the middle rank) understand Christianity? Do they conceive what it is? Can they give an intelligible account, either of the speculative or practical part of it? What know they of the very first principles of it? Of the natural and moral attributes of God? Of his particular Providence? Of the redemption of man? Of the offices of Christ? Of the operations of the Holy Ghost? Of justification? Of the new birth? Of inward and outward sanctification? Speak of any of these things to the first ten persons you are in company with; and will you not find nine out of the ten ignorant of the whole affair? And are not most of the inhabitants of the Scotch Highlands fully as ignorant as these? Yea, and the common people in Ireland? (I mean the Protestants, of whom alone we are now speaking:) Make a fair inquiry, not only in the country cabins, but in the cities of Cork, Waterford, Limerick; yea, in Dublin itself. How few know what Christianity means! How small a number will you find that have any conception of the analogy of faith! Of the connected chain of Scripture truths, and their relation to each other! Namely, The natural corruption of man; justification by faith; the new-birth; inward and outward holiness. It must be acknowledged by all competent judges, who con verse freely with their neighbours in these kingdoms, that a vast majority of them know no more of these things, than they do of Hebrew or Arabic. And what good can Christianity do to these, who are so totally ignorant of it?
7. However, in some parts, both of England and Ireland, scriptural Christianity is well known; especially in London, Bristol, Dublin, and almost all the large and populous cities and towns of both kingdoms. In these, every branch of Christianity is openly and largely declared: and thousands upon thousands continually hear and receive "the truth as it is in Jesus." Why is it then, that even in these parts Christianity has had so little effect? Why are the generality of the people in all these places Heathens still? No better than the Heathens of Africa or America, either in their
tempers or in their lives? Now how is this to be accounted for? I conceive thus. It was a common saying among the Christians in the primitive Church, "The soul and the body make a man: the spirit and discipline make a Christian:" implying that none could be real Christians, without the help of Christian discipline. But if this be so, is it any wonder that we find so few Christians; for where is Christian discipline? In what part of England (to go no farther) is Christian discipline added to Christian doctrine ? Now whatever doctrine is preached, where there is not discipline, it cannot have its full effect upon the bearers.
8. To bring the matter closer still. Is not scriptural Christianity preached and generally known among the peo ́ple called Methodists? Impartial persons allow it is. And have they not Christian discipline too, in all the branches of it, regularly and constantly exercised? Let those who think any essential part of it is wanting, point it out, and it shall not be wanting long. Why then are not these altogether Christians, who have both Christian doctrine and Christian discipline? Why is not the spiritual health of the people called Methodists recovered? Why is not all that "mind in us which was in Christ Jesus ?" Why have we not learned of him, our very first lesson, to be meek and lowly of heart? To say with him, in all circumstances of life, "Not as I will, but as thou wilt! I come not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me." Why are not we "crucified to the world, and the world crucified to us? Dead to the desires of the flesh, the desire of the eye, and the pride of life?" Why do not all of us live "the life that is hid with Christ in God?" O why do not we, that have all possible helps, "walk as Christ also walked ?” Hath he not left us an example that we might tread in his steps? But do we regard either his example or precept? To instance only in one point. Who regards those solemn words, "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth?” Of the three rules which are laid down on this head, in the sermon on The Mammon of Unrighteousness, you may find many that observe the first rule, namely, “Gain all you