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yet imperfectly practised and appreciated, and that there is need that the Christian world should attain to a much higher standard of it, before we may look for a fulfilment of those greater promises of redemption of the body, and regeneration of the whole creation, which, in that same revelation, are held out to us.
Christianity then as it is, and as compared with the Bible, is our proper topic; and to this comparison therefore let us address ourselves.
Where is the fulfilment of the promise, to tread on serpents and scorpions, to go upon the lion and adder, the young lion and the dragon, and that nothing shall harm us?
It is said, that miracles are for signs, and they are extinct therefore among believers. Nay,—But the serpent is the evil one, and the scorpious are his ministers, and “ Behold I give you power against serpents—the Devil,- and scorpions--his angels and instruments,and over all the power of the enemy.” These are not for signs, but for the triumphs of Christian warfare :and where are these victories and triumphs ? Not in the modern armies of Christendom.
There is abundant authority in Holy Scripture for the expectation of a more operative and perfect Christianity. In our daily use of the Lord's Prayer we acknowledge this truth. When our Lord commands us to make use of the expression,“ thy kingdom come,” does he not bid us daily to look to the regeneration,and the adoption,—and the redemption of the body, which we are elsewhere said to groan for, and to desire to bring forth ? And if this regeneration be but to take
place here on earth, it differs not that it should be at the time of the second coming of our Saviour, or that it should precede the day of coming to the final judgment;—if it be a regeneration and perfecting of human nature, it is what we ought to look to, and hope for, and strive after, if we might attain to, or approach, or comprehend, even if it were but a part of it; and I shall endeavour to make it plain, that we are not doing this in any proper degree, but quite the contrary of it.
Also the Bible tells us some particulars of this regeneration. For wars shall cease in the world ; and nation shall not lift up sword against nation; they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, neither shall they learn war any more. These words are not yet accomplished, or accomplishing. On the contrary, larger armies and armaments than were ever before known, have been preparing and increasing, both by sea and land ; and we are inventing and improving and practising more arts and instruments of violence and destruction than ever, -and we call this being at peace. The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard with the kid, the calf with the lion, and the little child shall lead them; the cow and the bear shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and the child shall play upon the serpent's den,—they shall not hurt nor destroy,—the counsel of peace shall be between the king and the priest, between the clergy and the state,-throughout all the holy mountain and empire of Christ, his church and his kingdom. But this is not fulfilled, or fulfilling, either literally or figuratively,--for the rich are more and more separated from the poor, and the distinctions
and distance between classes are widening daily, and growing more and more cruel and unnatural.*
What progress or approach has Christianity yet made towards these objects? In the first centuries it triumphed over heathenism and idolatry, and overcame many devilish vices and practices. Would that it had extinguished them ! But very soon the heathen wisdom and manners mingled themselves with it; and ever since they have been growing into closer union; and it is still now to be seen, more than ever, that the church of Gentile-Christendom is governed by heathen motives and rules of action, and is filled with heathen practices and principles. I shall enter upon this point more particularly presently. At this time it is sufficient to observe, that it is remarkable at least, that we should be able so much to admire and accommodate ourselves to the writings of heathen authors, and to make their teaching so much the basis and principle of our own conduct.
But we will defer this topic; and confine our present attention to the practical estimation of Christianity in the world, and its real and actual influence upon the affairs of men, in their public and private conduct, and habitual intercourse.
- As well may
*“ It was announced beforehand to the Christian Church, that “her people should be all righteous,'whereas iniquity has abounded. “The wolf was to dwell with the lamb, and the leopard to lie down with the kid;' and there have been endless wars and fightings.” we imagine it was God's intention that the temple should be burned, and the Jews should go into captivity, as that Christendom should be what we see it is at this day."-- Newmun on Romanism, p. 240, 242, ed. 1838.
It certainly cannot be said, that religion is the primum mobile among men, or that religion is the first rule and motive in governing our private conduct; much less the public concerns, and the affairs of the state. The force and effect of religion, as leading to right judgment in human affairs, is decried and doubted; and according to the prevailing opinion, it is now conceived to have more power for evil than for good in public concerns; and its dictates and suggestions, through the clergy, are considered as mischievous, and counteracting all improvement.* The doctrine of seeking first the Kingdom of God, and through faith expecting that temporal good will follow, is scouted from public life, and is not much more received in the private walks of individuals. Faith, which is the distinctive essence of religion, and of Christianity in particular, is practically held to be a delusion ; -- and every thing is brought to and estimated by the highly approved test of self“sufficient reason.” Nothing is considered more chi
* This remark is more particularly applicable to the period of Whig government and influence, at which time this was written, and when the clergy were considered the most determined and influential body to counteract all reforms. But I do not consider this remark, and others made under the same circumstances, as inapplicable on account of any present reaction; because I apprehend that such reaction will be only temporary, and I see the same causes and principles in operation which brought the late government into power, and which must continue, after a temporary suspension,--if even such there be - to forward and establish their policy and principles, if not to bring themselves again into the government.
The project of increasing the number of spiritual peers to its former proportion would still be looked upon as monstrous; though by divine appointment, among the Jews, the priests were made the proper judges of the law in every controversy.-Deut. xxi. 5.
merical and absurd than the notion of governing a country, or even the details of private life, by the perfect law of the Gospel. What absurdities would it be supposed to lead to, if we were to give to him that asked us !--- to give up our coat and our cloke ! - to turn the other cheek !—and to observe the Sabbath-day strictly. The world could not go on under such a rule and discipline. Happy are they that mourn : -Happy are the poor in spirit:—The meek shall inherit the earth :-- Happy are ye when men shall persecute you :
- It is more happy to give than to receive.--If these are accepted by any one, it is by a few solitary individuals only.
The plain maxims of Christianity are looked upon as hyperbolical, and are not thought compatible with modern civilization and enlightenment. We have made so great discoveries, and such wonderful progress, that human nature is re-established upon a new basis, and is no longer subject to the same rules of action as when it was in its infancy;* but now it is able to walk alone, upon the ground of the knowledge of its own true in
Similar to this in spirit was the Puritan opinion, which Fuller found it necessary to combat, (in his Triple Reconciler,) that the Lord's Prayer was imperfect, because Jesus Christ composed it in his minority, before he was arrived at his full perfection.--p. 130.
Evil tendencies present themselves most nakedly and glaringly in the first development of principles and diseases : :-as in the first heresies, the first rise of English commerce, the French Revolution; the principles of which are still governing our counsels in the present day. The principles are not the less operative and deadly, because, while seemingly stifled, they afterwards advance more covertly and insidiously, and possess by a slow and general invasion all the vital parts of the system.