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and infatuation; and vain would it be to expect, that the self-blinded and self-loving principle should pronounce its own condemnation.
Yet, with all this, there is a natural aspiring of the heart after religion; an unconquerable longing, a restless effort, for an enjoyment which, obscure and undefined as it may be, draws forwards the mind to the future, the invisible, the eternal; in a word, to a connexion of man with his Creator and Ruler. Mournful vestige of a perished goodness! Indelible mark of the property, and the right, and the never-relaxed hold, of a righteous God!
We find, then, in our nature, and its inevitable circumstances, principles of contradiction; an intellectual mutiny, a war of reason, feeling, and fact; a state of things, within every man's competency to detect, which loudly cries of disorder and ruin. No wonder is it, that mankind ransack heaven and earth to find religion, while they reject that which alone is religion; no wonder that, wanting all the time a god to sooth and comfort them, "they have not liked to retain the true God in their knowledge;" no wonder that "they hold the truth in unrighteousness;" or that they cling to "a form of godliness," while they "deny its power."
But this is not to be always the state of things. Our evidence of the divinity and certainty of Revelation, embraces a very wide extent of exhilarating prospect, with regard to its diffusion and influence. Christianity alone, of all the progressive disclosures of the true religion, and of all the varieties of that which is false, is fitted to become the universal religion. Its facts and doctrines are certain and ap
plicable, at all times, and under all circumstances. It is trammelled by no enactments which, as to the essence at least of their observance, are not easily practicable, in any climate, in any condition of society, or under any equitable mode of human government. It has no party-spirit or national predilections to gratify, nor antipathies and prejudices to indulge. It will be with the most perfect preservation of all the civil interests of mankind, all the rights of nations, all the noblest ends of government, and all the felicity of private persons, that "the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him."
The events of the last forty years seem to announce that we are now approaching, with accelerated pace, to that grand period; the sabbath of the world, the emancipation of our race from the usurpation of cruel errors and abominable idolatries, the day of peace and holiness, for which the true church, from its beginning, has been sighing and travailing in pain, together with the whole creation thus subjected to vanity and abuse. It is scarcely possible to mistake these signs of our time.] Heathen and Mahometan people have given many demonstrations that those signs are seen and heard even by them, in their dark seats of supine abjectness; and the wicked among ourselves, the Christians by courtesy, the persons most habitually insensible to the movements of Almighty Providence, have sufficiently shown, that their apathy or disbelief can, with diffi
culty, sustain itself. The portentous heavings of
Religion, as it exists in its great original and pattern, the moral attributes of God, or as it is disclosed to us objectively in the records of creation
and revealed truth, can admit of no accession from
nts not an appearance of healthiness and vigour, correspondent to its divine birth and its heavenly
But we are sending forth our religion to the world. The impulse of the Omnipotent will not allow it to lie longer hidden in the closet, or to operate only within the boundaries of our particular communities. It must be presented to the nations, in its honours, or in its weakness and poverty; and we may reasonably expect that, not merely its essential nature, but its special qualities also, as derived from us, will be impressed upon those who receive it. What a view of responsibility rises here before us! It is not allowed us to glide through life, and pass into the presence of our Judge, laden merely with our own burden; to answer for the weakness of our faith, the torpor of our religious affections, and the comparative sterility of our practice and then to have no other account to render. Awful as must be our personal concerns at that tribunal, we must appear there with a weighty increase of ame
nableness. Persons whom we have never known, who speak barbarous tongues, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the earth; children of men yet unborn; yea, whole tribes and nations; will have deduced the mould and stamp of their religion from the visible character of ours. O, how desirable that we should be able to say, with the highest degree of conscientious sensibility, "Be ye followers of us, as even we are of Christ!"
In some respects, indeed, we possess the marks of great and evident advantage. Let us gladly acknowledge what the Spirit of grace hath wrought. Some of the ancient forms of bigotry have become obsolete. Few genuine Christians now confine their recognition of excellence, their esteem and their cordial love, within the circle of their own communion. The smaller matters that concern discipline, order, and modes of worship, are not now very generally considered as of equal importance with the belief of the weightiest truths, the sanctification of the Spirit, the life of faith upon the Son of God, and the great characters of holy practice. Men who are very conscientiously of different ecclesiastical persuasions, cultivate each other's friendship, meet and deliberate and act upon the grounds of their common and most holy faith, cordially pray together, and consecrate their single and their associated talents to their one Lord; and they do all this without any sacrifice of principle, or compromise of duty.
On this topic, may we be allowed to pause for a moment; as the mariner, safely standing on some noble promontory, can survey the rocks, and quick