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rupt taste of men, as itself grows more corrupt, and according to their own inventions. The true desire must be, that religion should be pure, and that men should nevertheless be fond of it, and still continue to be religious. As things are, the choice is of two evils. Superstition and infidelity, these are the weights in the two scales. I shall proceed still further to show, that it is not only in outward act and appearance, but in inward thought, and motive, and conduct, that we are far behind in the operation of religion. It will then be for us to judge what we have to fear or boast, as a nation and individually, upon this awful and momentous subject and crisis.
THE BIBLE PRACTICALLY DENIED-EXCUSES FOR THIS-IN THE HABITS
OF PUBLIC AND PRIVATE LIFE-MOTIVES OF CONDUCT-WHAT PAITH
HISTORY - SCEPTICISM PRODUCES
CREDULITY-THE POSITION OF ENGLAND.
Want of faith is the very characteristic of this generation. Concurrent and consistent with this is a want of charity :-the charity which believeth all things. We have no charity, or kindness, or confidence in our reception of other people's assertions and evidence; but our study is to guard ourselves against deception-to receive as little as we can; and as much only as is forced upon us by imperative proof and irresistible conviction. Not that we receive and act upon no more than this :—this is not the fact; since it is impossible. But that we endeavour after this, and profess it to ourselves, and believe that we act upon it. It is a system of war and defence that we maintain; and, as in the case of war, our interchange of goods and useful produce is greatly impeded, and to our infinite loss fettered
by it and restricted; but, nevertheless, there is much traffic in contraband goods, which are both smuggled and adulterated.
But the want of faith is more open and direct than this; and it is the most obvious and pointed upon religious subjects. The Bible is boldly and practically denied in every particular. No class or body of men believe and obey it. And strange as it may seem, it is by no nation, or people, or churches, or sects of men less implicitly believed and followed, than by those very people and sections of the Church who talk so much about it. There are no persons less obedient to the plain sense and mandates of the written word of God, than those who most speak of and uphold it as the sole authority and standard, and reject all assistance from the history of the Church, and what is spoken against as tradition. Every class of persons reject some portion or other of the sacred Scriptures. If you talk to some of temporal honour and rewards, and the observance of a day of rest, and the patriarchs, they will say, Oh! that is the Old Testament, and is abrogated. If you speak to others of good works, Oh! they will say, that is only in the Gospels; and the Epistles carry us much beyond that, and are superior to it. Unitarians, again, receive a bible of their own, that is, just so many passages are excluded as ill-suit their own belief and purpose. Others, of numerous sects, dwell each upon some half-dozen chapters, or passages, or phrases, or words of Scripture, of the Epistles especially, and dwell upon them idolatrously and devotedly, to the exclusion
of all the rest, so far as the authority of Scripture is concerned, from belief and practice.
This is even in the religious world—the thinking and the reasoning world. Let us now turn our observation to the world itself; to the working and practical.
The Bible is denied in every particular. Men do not believe that we are really to be Christians; that we are to imitate our Lord. They do not believe that the world could possibly go on, if all men were to act upon pure Christian motives, and up to a perfect Christian rule; -if they were to forgive and forget injuries ; if they were not to resent an affront; if they were to give to people because they asked them; if they were to lend money without looking for interest; if we were all to give up luxuries, and style, and costly furniture and equipage; if we, our cattle and servants, were strictly to observe the day of rest. How many are they among us who believe, that the “ tree of knowledge” is not an absolute good ? or, that we ought to receive the Gospel with the simplicity of little children? Who believes that we ought to honour our father and mother, and our sovereign? Who is there that acts up to the precept, that we ought not to judge others in their character? How many are there who appear to believe that it is not right to be anxious about the future; that riches are not a good thing; that the entrance into heaven is easier to the poor man; that slavery is not unfavourable to the knowledge and dispositions becoming a Christian ;* that we ought to return a tenth
* Even a commentator on the Bible can use the following sentiment in the way of explanation and instruction :-" The slavery they
to God; that it would bring a blessing, to give freely and largely to the poor; that children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord, and that the man is happy who has his quiver full of them? It is evident that in all these points the Bible is disbelieved, and is practically denied; and does not control or guide us in our habits and principles of life and society.
Still less do we believe that the public measures, the laws and government of the state, and the intercourse with other nations, ought to be, or can be, carried on and conducted upon Christian principles. What number or classes of persons believe that righteousness exalteth a nation ? that we are punished according to the national sins of the people, and for the sins of the rulers ? and that if wicked and irreligious men preside over our councils we shall as a nation suffer the penalties of it? for that the conscience of the government is the conscience of the people, and that our rulers are bound to take the first care for the pure religion and morals of the country, and that if they so do, their righteousness will bring down a blessing upon the nation.
To come again to more direct practice, and to our own habits of life. Who is there who thinks first what is right, and according to the pattern of Christ, and had so long endured had served to debase their minds, and to render them incapable of every high and dignified sentiment, and of every generous act.”—Comprehensive Bible, at Num. xi. 11, note (8). Whereas God afflicted and afflicts His people for their very
correction and improvement, and for the purpose of bringing them into that state of mind which He approves and honours. -See St. Chrysostom on 1 Cor. vii. 20, et seq.