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abundant merits *. With these persuasions deeply and indelibly impressed upon their mind, what room can be found for those graces of humility and meekness, which should be perpetually associated with human frailty ? He whom the consciousness of infirmity should teach to proceed with salutary fear in the fulfilment of duty, will forget the feebleness of his nature in the pride of imaginary excellence. The heart will learn to repose a vain reliance on its strength and rectitude ; and a contemptuous pity, or irreconcileable hatred, will be felt and exercised towards all those who shall not have imbibed the same arrogance of spirit from the same fountain of the Koran.
How far a religion which founds such doctrines on such sanctions, is worthy of the praise of the philosopher, or the acceptance of the world, we may now, perhaps, be able to determine. That it is not, in almost any, sense, adapted to the character of such a frail and erring being as man, will be scarcely denied by the candid enquirer, who adverts to the pride which it engenders, the inconsistencies and contradictions by which it is disgraced, the example which it exhibits in the various vices of its author, and the spirit of rapine and devastation which it breathes and propagates. A nation of warriors and fanatics, who were to flourish by oppression and live by blood, might be urged to victory, or stimulated to spoliation, by the views which it opens, and the precepts and promises which it inculcates and affords; but to the rest of men it could bode nothing save misery and oppression in this world, and final rejec
* Kor. ch. xvii. vol. ii. p. 107. Garnier. Vie de Mahom. vol. ii.
tion in the next. Of the excellence of some of its injunctions it may indisputably be proud, but the casual excellence is defeated by the general and predominant temper of its doctrines. The equity, the benignity, the love of peace, the sympathies of humanity, which look from the individual to the species, and discover the face of a brother wherever man is beheld, are little promoted by its doctrines or its sanctions; and we discover only the maxims of a benevolence and a mercy limited to an haughty and fanatical sect, and of a zeal which is to purchase salvation by the blood of the infidel, and to consider ferocity, exercised in the overthrow of the idolator, as the first and noblest of all virtues.
SECT. IV. AU the institutions of the Gospel moral in their tendency-Faith and
hope-Their natural influence—The fundamental principle of the New Testament -The love prescribed as the test of the love of God-Extent of the charity so inculcated-Influence on conduct, manners, and sentiment - The sum of moral duty-Description by Saint Paul — Christian morality not for sects, but for the world--Different in this particular from all other religionsAl revenge, retaliation, and violence interdicted—The guilty themselves to be treated with forbearance and mercy-Internal purity to be added to external obedience The world to be subdued, and the virtues decried and rejected by the world, adopted and practised-The disciple of the Gospel to triumph over himself, not over his fellow-creatures-Patience, meekness, long-suffering, readiness to forgive, love of enemies, not inconsistent with the circumstances in which men are placed— The world neither requires nor is benefited by the opposite qualities of resistance, retaliation, conflict and revenge-Manner in which the rule is laid down-Universality of the rule itself-Review.
THE religion of the Gospel essentially differs, in this respect, from the religions of men. The religions of men impair their moral influence, not merely by the discordance and inconsistency of their precepts, but by the views which they open to faith and hope, and by the rites and ceremonies which they enjoin for the purpose of conciliating the divine favour, The religion of the Gospel, on the contrary, renders all its injunctions contributory to a moral purpose; and the institutions which it sanctions, the faith and hope which it inspires, and the ideas which it communicates of the divine nature, co-operate alike to confirm and to enforce the lessons of practical wisdom.
The religious institutions of Christ have been already considered in their tendency to exalt and edify the heart. By baptism we are admitted to the privileges of the Gospel, under the express and solemn covenant of Christian obedience. By the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, we enter into a new pledge “ to walk worthy of the vocation to which
we are called.” By the sabbath, we are permitted to repose from the debasing pursuits and sordid cares of the world, and are called on to consider and correct the vanity of our ways, and to meditate on the duties which we owe to God, to man, and to ourselves. All are calculated for our improvement in virtue ; and each, properly observed, becomes favourable to the best feelings and noblest principles of the heart *.
The faith which is required by the Gospel, is also, in the highest degree, of a moral and regenerating efficacy, teaching us, at once, how we should live and how we should die, and affording for our support the most sublime and animating motives. By faith the disciple of Christ looks up to the Almighty
* See Sect. iv, on Religious Institutions.
as the avenger of crime, and the remunerator of virtue. By faith he contemplates the mercies of mediation, of redemption, and of grace. By faith he extends his views beyond the dwellings of earth, to the city of God. By faith he connects the performances and sufferings of this life with the allotments of eternity. By faith he is gifted with the vision of angels, to contemplate, till he aspires to, the joys of everlasting felicity, and to behold, till his heart melt with reverence and awe, the outskirts of the light which encompasses the throne and majesty of heaven. What high and purifying ideas are thus awakened in the breast ! What noble and inspiring anticipations are impressed on the soul! What contempt is excited for all those things which contribute to corrupt and fascinate the children of Mammon ! And what zeal is kindled to sustain trial to the end, and to triumph over the powers of darkness and of sin !
This faith is inseparably connected with the purity of regeneration, and, in proportion only as it regenerates, is it just and holy. It is not an enthusiastic and visionary belief, an implicit and fruitless admission of mysterious doctrines, a fervid and abstract impression to which salvation is annexed, without any reference to right and wrong. It is that persuasion which ennobles motive, and enlightens reason, and kindles the best and highest affections, by the grandeur of its views, and the holy and inspiring confidence of its expectations. It is wisdom practical as well as pious, which connects man by new and more interesting ties with his Maker, which unfolds the mercy and the justice of the Cross to discipline the temper and enforce the obedience of the heart; which represses guilt by the annunciations of judgment, and encourages virtue by promises of recompense; which opens the prospect of the future for the edification of the present; and which, while it awakens and justifies the high ambition of immortality, converts the children of earth into the disciples and the heirs of heaven.
Singularly framed, indeed, must be the heart of that man who can look up, through the medium of faith, to an Almighty Governor watching over and regulating all events; a recording spirit to whose eyes are open the most secret recesses of the soul ; a redeeming, mediating, and sanctifying God; a tribunal of judgment before which all the generations of men are one day to bow down, and receive the final decree and unalterable allotment-Singularly constituted must be that man's heart who can contemplate objects like these, without being impressed with the resolution to restrain his will, to correct his passions, and to consecrate his future life to holiness and to virtue.
Nor is Christian hope, perhaps, less fruitful of salutary persuasions, than Christian faith.
The religion of the Gospel is no gloomy and melancholy system of painful ceremonies, afflicting rites, and ascetic austerities. Represented though it has been by some weak and fanatical minds, as sent forth to detach mankind from the joys and comforts of life, it disclaims the repulsive rigours with which ignorance and despondency have loaded and disgraced it. Hope is not merely to be indulged, but is required and sanctioned as a cardinal virtue. That which is to be the happiness of man, becomes matter of precept and of obligation; and evangelical trust is permitted and inspired, for the stay and support of evangelical integrity.