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established laws. But Christianity is a religion of choice, and not of compulsion. It is not answerable for those who do not yield to its authority. Its pre-eminence over every other religion is sufficiently shown, if its moral tendency is superior to theirs; and if individuals and nations are distinguished for virtue, in proportion as they are sensible to its motives, and obedient to its precepts. Now, to any person who has read the New Testament, an appeal may be safely made, as to its moral tendency, and as to the dispositions and behavior of any man, or body of men, who should with conscience and good fidelity, adopt its principles as the rule of life.

We next proceed to show, as was intended, that the effect of Christianity has been displayed in converting many among nominal Christians, from a life either of open vice or religious insensibility.

Previous presumption against this will be diminished, or entirely removed by a recurrence to the early history of the church.

Paul has informed us, as to the change, which religion produced in the character of some, who were afterwards members of the Corinthian church. Having enumerated idolaters, effeminate, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners, he subjoins, “and such were some of you ; but ye are washed; but ye are sanctified; but ye are justified, in the name

l of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”

As public morals in a Christian community, are far better than they were before the introduction of Christianity, it is not to be expected, that its visible effect on character should ordinarily be as striking among ourselves, as it was in the instances just cited. Religion imposes restraint in a greater or less degree, on every individual of a Christian nation. It produces the appearance of convalescence, in a thousand instances, where the source of the disease is not removed. It renders the maniac less wild and ferocious, even where the empire of reason is never regained. On the other hand, a real change of character, by which I niean renovation of heart, may be effected, either at so

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early a period, or under such circumstances, as to prevent the change from being immediately obvious, either to the subject of it, or to those around him. Still it is a fact, perfectly well established, that in those Christian countries where the doctrines of religion are fairly exhibited—in our own country, at every period of its history—the gospel has effected in the character of great numbers, an obvious and permanent change. The fact now mentioned, is of as palpable a kind, and as fairly exposed to observation, as any appearance of nature, or as any of those events which are recorded in civil history. Persons, who have been as little restrained by the moral precepts of Christianity, as they were attached to its appropriate sentiments and duties, have manifested an entire change of taste, habits, and character, engaging ardently, and from inclination, in pursuits which they previously viewed, not merely with indifference, but with strong aversion.

But a change of character may be distinctly visible in persons who were never chargeable with habits of vice. Many of this description, are so conscious that their characters are not formed according to the standard of Christianity, that they would be surprised, and perhaps offended, were they suspected of having imbibed the Christian temper. In the minds of many individuals among this class of nominal believers, a change has been produced, scarcely less evident to an attentive observer, than that which we have just described. New views have been obtained as to the condition and responsibility of man, the obligations of virtue, and the whole Christian economy.

That the gospel is entitled to praise for having produced a great melioration of temper and habits in some men of a character decidedly vicious, will perhaps, be granted without seeming reluctance. Such persons need to become, in almost all things, the reverse of what they now are. They ought, indeed, to be made new creatures. In reference to such, who set every principle of virtue at defiance, “old things" should indeed “be done away, and all things should become new.” But you are not ready, perhaps, to allow that it redounds to the honor of


Christianity, to have been instrumental of producing sorrow, penitence, and a broken heart, in persons whose characters have exhibited nothing peculiarly defective or · reprehensible. In these instances, it may be, religion appears to you more obtrusive than beneficent, interposing a severe authority, where nothing was wanting but mild correctives.

To this complaint against religion, I would by no means, reply with petulance, or precipitation. If the complaint is well founded, it will endure rational discussion. But if it shuns examination, it should not be reiterated.

What, permit me to ask, are prominent traits in the life of a rational man ? Are not these, that he prefers the greater to the less; that his regard to objects is apportioned to their intrinsic value; that good characters are preferred to bad; and that, among the former, those are most loved whose goodness is preeminent? If these are sound principles, you cannot be misled by any inferences, to which they fairly give rise. From the first of these ; namely, the greater is to be preferred to the less, it follows that no man lives a rational life, who does not make the salvation of his soul an object of principal attention. That this is done by all men, who are chargeable with no very distinct breaches of morality, will not, I presume, be asserted. It is a fact, too obvious to require proof, that even among those in whose deportment civil laws find nothing to censure, thousands have almost as little reference to a future state, as if the soul's immortality were not an article of their creed. Far from feeling anxiety as to salvation, they would consider such anxiety as evincing a mind, either inflamed by enthusiasm, or darkened by superstition. Among even those, therefore, whose morals are in no high degree exceptionable, there are many who cannot be said to live conformably to the dictates of reason. Our language is, indeed, much too feeble for the occasion. For what can be more dangerous ; what a greater outrage on all principles of prudence and rational self-love, than for a being, conscious of possessing immortal powers, a mind vastly capacious, both of pleasure and pain, to concentrate his affection on a world, which he may this night be called to abandon, and contemn that immeasurable existence, which religion has taught him to expect ?

It is another trait in the character of a rational man, that his estimate of objects should be apportioned to their value. Is this proof of intellectual sanity wanting to none but those whose lives are polluted with gross profligacy? Consider the nature of those discoveries which religion makes-their purity, their grandeur, and awful sublimity. Consider what is implied in “ sitting down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of God;" in being associated with "an innumerable company of angels and the spirits of just men made perfect;"-in being admitted to the “presence of Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, and of God the Judge of all.” In addition to this, consider what is implied in the loss of the soul-banishment from God-in “ being punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power!” Now let what is habitually passing in the mind, and displaying itself in the character of innumerable inoffensive persons of either sex, and of every condition, be compared with that train of thinking and feeling, which corresponds with those solemn, commanding, and absorbing objects, which by the gospel of Christ, are forced upon our observation; and then let any man determine, whether merely an abstinence from palpable vice, necessarily implies a character founded on the basis of reason.

It is further implied in the character of a rational man, that in his estimate of moral beings, the good should be preferred to the bad, and that among the former, those should be most highly esteemed, whose goodness is pre-eminent. One part of the proposition results from the other. If it is reasonable to love virtue, they are to be most loved in whom virtue is most conspicuous. The virtue, that is, the holiness of the Supreme Being, is transcendent and perfect. He is therefore to be regarded not merely with the approbation of the intellect, but with the highest affection of the heart; agreeably to the words of our Saviour: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy

strength. Now, is a principle of divine love as extensive in its influence on human character, as it is rational in itself? But none, in whom this principle is not predominant, can be said to live rationally.

It has now been proved, I conceive, that many, besides such as have rendered themselves conspicuous for vice, may yet need an alteration of character, a change of heart, or spiritual renovation. · Nor is any thing more common than to find individuals of decent deportment and many interesting qualities, who are conscious, nevertheless, of not being actuated by Christian motives,—of not having imbibed the Christian spirit. That power, which belongs to the Christian religion ;—that energy, of which our Saviour speaks, when he says, concerning his own doctrines : They are spirit and they are life, is therefore, as truly excellent, though less observable, when it produces affections of piety, in the sinner of more decorous habits, as when the unrestrained profligate renounces, with abhorrence, his accustomed enormities.

We hence perceive, that the evidence, which supports the Christian religion, is abundant and various.

In addition to the miracles, which the Saviour wrought; the prophecies, which were fulfilled in him, or delivered by him, and since accomplished—in addition to all the evidence resulting from the rapid progress, which this religion made, when first promulgated, the reforming influence, which it has had on those who have embraced it, and through their means, on the habits and morals of nations, is, of itself, a distinct proof. In the dawn of the Christian era, to what distant and various nations were the tidings of salvation conveyed! To what multitudes was the arm of the Lord revealed! How great was the change which Christianity effected in those who, in consequence of receiving it, “turned from dunib idols, to serve the living God, and to wait for his Son from heaven!” Every instance of real conversion, is fresh proof of the divine commission of Christ—the divine origin of that blessed religion, which thus transforms the beart! Christianity is immutable; its influence is uniform. VOL. II.


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