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which we profess, and are most likely to win and gain over opponents. It is by this temper, in short, that we not only enter the kingdom of our Lord here, but are prepared and qualified to partake, through the alone merits of his death, of all its infinite blessings hereafter.

45

LECTURE III.

THE INDISPENSABLE NECESSITY OF A DIVINE REVE-
LATION SHOWN FROM THE STATE OF MAN IN ALL
AGES.

ROMANS I. 19-24.
Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them;

for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things
of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen,
being understood by the things that are made, even his eter-
nal power and godhead; so that they are without excuse.
Because that when they knew God, they glorified him not as
God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imagi-
nations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Profess-
ing themselves to be wise, they became fools ; and changed
the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like
to corruptible man, and to birds, and four-footed beasts, and
creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to
uncleanness, through the lust of their own hearts.

Having considered in our last discourse the temper of mind in which an inquiry into the truth and importance of the Christian revelation should be pursued, I now proceed a step further. I address myself to the young Christian ; and before I enter upon the direct arguments which may strengthen his conviction of the truth of the scriptures, I beg him to pause and consider the absolute and indispensable necessity of a divine revelation, as it appears from the state of mankind in all ages and nations where Christianity has been unknown, and from the condition of Christian nations, in proportion as Christianity has been inadequately known and obeyed.

Not that man is to presume to set up himself as a judge whether the Almighty should grant him a revelation or not. God forbid! We are weak and ignorant creatures. The sovereign Lord of all (for I argue not with the atheist) has a right to do what he will with his own.” It might have

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COUNTRIES

pleased him to make a revelation of his will, without enabling us to see, in any considerable measure, the necessity of it in our present circumstances. Or it might have been only to the extent of assisting and aiding us in certain difficultiesor it might have gone to some improvement merely in our mapner of worship, or some advance in our degree of knowledge In every case, a revelation from God would have ject of 'humble and obedient gratitude. But, undoubtedly, it deepens our impression of the incalculable importance of the Christian religion, when we perceive the utter hopelessness and misery of man in all ages and under all circumstances without it. The direct proofs will thus have no antecedent improbability to overcome. The religion will stand clear of any previous imputation of being unnecessary or unlikely.* It will come to us with all that strong presumption in its favor which arises from the necessities of mankind, compared with the acknowledged goodness and benevolence of God.

The necessity of a divine revelation, then, will appear, if we consider the state of the HEATHEN WORLD BEFORE THE COMING OF CHRIST; the state of UNBELIEVERS AT PRESENT scattered in Christian lands; that of the PAGAN NATIONS Now in different parts of the world; and THE OF CHRISTENDOM themselves, in proportion as they do not obey the revelation they profess to receive.

I. Let us consider the deplorable ignorance, idolatry and vice of the HEATHEN CHRIST.

It is most difficult so far to divest ourselves of the principles and habits of a Christian education, as to form any just conception of the state of things when the light of the gospel first arose upon the world. It is of itself no slight argument in favor of Christianity, that it has placed us on such an eminence of religious and moral feeling, that we cannot easily explore, even in imagination, that gulf of depravity where mankind previously lay. A few points of contrast is all I shall attempt

1. The existence of one living and true God, the immortality of the soul, and a future state of rewards and punishments, are the foundations of the Christian faith, and are so generally known amongst us, that the ministers of religion can take them as admitted in their instructions. The child and the peasant understand them.

* Davison,

WORLD

BEFORE

THE

COMING

OF

But throughout the heathen world, before the coming of Christ, the doctrine of the being of the true God was lost. Idolatry the most debasing universally prevailed—there was no fixed belief in the creation of the world, in a divine providence, in the accountableness of man, in the immortality of the soul, and a future judgment. I say nothing about reconciliation, the means of pardon, the aids of the Holy Spirit, and other blessings of the gospel, because no notion on these important truths was entertained; the broken traditions and indistinct notices of sacrifice could afford no light to guide man aright. And as to those primary questions which I have mentioned, and on which all religion rests—on which all obedience, all worship, all love to God, all the authority of conscience, all the sanction of duty, all the fear of future punishment, all moral responsibility depend—the utmost confusion prevailed. The greatest philosophers groped as in the night. “ Darkness covered the earth, and gross darkness the people.

2. Again, as to the standard of morals and our duties to each other, Christians have the Ten Commandments, summing them up in a brief and intelligible and authoritative code-every human creature almost knows the rule of duty. All is plain, express, binding on the conscience. But the heathen had no distinct knowledge on these subjects, no agreement on what constituted virtue, no clear idea of the supreme good, no fixed and invariable rule of right and wrong. Many virtues were unknown; many vices defended or excused. They had no sufficient motives to enforce what they did know of these things. The light of nature as to morals was obscure, weak, uncertain, partial. Man, having lost the knowledge of his Maker, had lost the rule of his law.' Blot out our decalogue, our sermon on the mount; leave men to hammer out moral truths by the dim light of reason, in the midst of a thousand corrupt passions, and you have the state of the whole heathen world, as to morals, before the coming of Christ.

3. In a Christian country, further, we have a popular course of religious instruction from the hands of an order of persons dedicated and set apart by a peculiar education and a sacred appointment. Truth is expounded and appliedevery parish has its teacher--the whole mass of mankind is educated and trained in religion. We have also the divine will committed to writing by inspired persons, and thus preserved in its integrity from the carelessness or corrupt passions of men.

But in the heathen world, there was no religious instruction, no moral teaching, no popular doctrine, no inspired written guide. There were a few philosophers, the founders of sects and the heads of schools. But these men were themselves involved in the greatest obscurity, and not at all able to direct mankind. Few of them attempted to bring down ethics to human life and practice. They commonly engaged in endless disquisitions and disputes on the eternity of matter, the soul of the world, and other fruitless topics. They countenanced the prevailing idolatries and vices. Even Socrates, the wisest of their number, did this, and his fast words were an injunction to sacrifice to one of their false gods. In their codes of morals (the Ethics of Aristotle, for example, or the Offices of Cicero) there are some beautiful theories indeed, but they are not recommended on the proper motives; they want divine authority, they are built on a foundation of pride and self-sufficiency.* The influence of the philosophers was little, if any, on the mass of mankind. Any education of the nation in religion and morals was unknown. The great body of them, the slaves, were entirely overlooked: the duties of private life are scarcely touched upon it was the public character alone, the future statesman,

that they condescended to instruct. The whole human race, as to religion, was dispersed and scattered abroad," as sheep having no shepherd.”

4. Once more; we are accustomed in Christian countries to reverence the public ordinances of religion. We feel instinctively that impiety and vice are inconsistent with the worship of the great and holy Lord God, whose infinite purity strikes even the profane mind with a degree of dread.

But the heathen were impure and abominable even in their religion. Their gods and goddesses were profligate, impure, revengeful, odious. “The very light that was in them was darkness.” For what could the histories of Jupiter and Juno and Bacchus and Mercury and Venus teach, but vice and drunkenness and lewdness and theft and fraud ? What were

Æquum mî animum ipse parabo.-HOR. Beatæ vitæ causa et firmamentum est, sibi fidere. Turpe est Deos fatigare. Quid votis opus est? Fac te felicem; exurge et te dignum finge. Deo.-Sen. Epis. 31.

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