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proposed at its commencement, are full of hope and duty, of encouragement, and not of despair. The gloomy theory of Malthus, that vice and wretchedness are the inevitable doom of man, we throw to the winds as lighter than they; and that other, but cognate theory, that the past, and all its lessons and fruition, are nothing-are but “as a tale that is told,”-shall bear it company. Our lesson is one that cheers us on to labor and high endeavor; that, admitting no excuse for indolence, finding no limits where the progress of the race shall cease, urges to continual conquests. It enjoins all men, everywhere, to labor, assuring them of a full reward. It chills by no disheartening views of the laws of nature, but finds them all consistent with man's welfare and the soul's aspirations. In its light we may see our duty at all times and in all exigencies in small things and in great; in what relates to country, church, neighborhood, family, self. It directs us to the actual and the concrete-tells that life is real, and that we are not to believe that our best efforts are all vain, vain. It ennobles man; gives dignity and meaning to his work ; denounces the stupendous lie that life and life's business and hopes are all false and fleeting. It reconciles seeming inconsistencies, and makes man strong and calm in the reflection that from seeming evil good is continually educed, and in the confidence that, however he may be perplexed by apparently opposite and conflicting elements and tendencies,
“ These struggling tides of life that seem
In wayward, aimless course to tend,
The Religion of Principle.
CHRISTIANITY is peculiarly and emphatically a religion of principle; and this truth obtains equally in its doctrinal and in its moral teachings. In attempting to unfold and
proslance. In principle may be well
illustrate this position, it may be well to define our terms, In physics, a “principle” is a constituent part, a primary substance. In science, it is a general truth, admitted or proved. In logic, it is that which supports an assertion or an argument. In morals, it is a settled law, a fixed and unchanging rule of action, which is always to be regarded and never to be violated. This last is the sense in which we employ the term when we say that Christi. anity is a religion of principle. In a doctrinal point of view it announces the truth that the government of God is a government of principle. He walks by rules that know no abatement, and in all the boundless realm of his power there is not a movement which is not regulated by and founded upon a fixed, settled, and eternal law. And so in morals. Its code of laws for the regulation of man's conduct is short and simple. It gives not a multitude of rules for the regulation of the hands, under certain circumstances; but it traces all moral obligation back to the law of love, and announces that as the principle which is to be held sacred under all circumstances. Both these positions are embodied in the following language of Jesus : “ Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, Love your enemies; bless them that curse you ; do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the chil. dren of your Father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and the unjust." (Matt. v. 43–45.) The idea is plain to the meanest capacity. The good Father sends The sunshine and the rain, not by caprice or by special interpositions in favor of one class .of men in preference to another, but by uniform principles or by settled and immutable laws, which apply alike to the evil and the good, the just and the unjust. In like manner we are required to abide by principle in our treatment of our fellow-men. We are to take the law of love as the inflexible rule of our conduct, and apply it alike to those who are our friends, and to those that hate us and despitefully use us and persecute us. Thus doing, we become godlike.
A God of expediency, or of temporizing policy, would make a sun, and suspend the light upon contingencies. He would bid him shine upon one man who was good and true, and withhold his beams from another who was sinful and corrupt. If He brought the clouds over the earth, he would command them to pour out the rain upon the fields of some, and withhold it from others. So, also, such a Divinity would require us to do good to some men, under certain circumstances, and evil to others, under different circumstances; that we should exercise love at one time, and hatred at another, as events and contingencies might indicate to be good or bad policy. But it is clearly 10 be seen that this is not the God of Christianity, as he is revealed, either in example or precept. He made the sun, and bade him shine upon all that live. Men may be his friends or enemies; they may hate and worry and devour each other, and riot in sin of deepest die, and even deluge the earth in blood. But these are circumstances that have no bearing upon the principles upon which the government of God is administered. Shine on, thou glorious sun! Shine on, is the mandate from the Eternal Throne; and shed down thy golden rays upon the evil and the good, is the fixed and steadfast law, the settled and unvarying rule or principle, that never changes. And so the clouds may rise; but the rain falls not by caprice or by partial favor, which arbitrarily prefers some men to others,—but “ Pour out thy waters, and let the heavens drop down fulness upon the just and the unjust," is the firm and steadfast principle by which God abides once and forever.
And so the command to us is, in imitation of our Father, to abjure the schemings of policy, and abide by principle. To do good unto all men, and to overcome evil with good, is the settled rule with which we are to go out, and on which we are to practice in all our intercourse with our fellows. If we say this man is our enemy, and he hates us, and that man despises us, and persecutes us, and if we ask what we are to do under these circumstances, the answer is, that circumstances may appeal to policy or expediency, but they have nothing to do with principles. Our duty in the case is to hold fast the principle of love, and to do good at all times, and to all men. Circumstances may be taken into the account in determining the
mode and manner, the means and the methods, of doing good; but they touch not the principle upon which we are bound to act. Hence it appears that Christianity' is a religion of principle. In this regard, and in both these aspects, it differs from all other systems, especially from those of the Pagan world, as we proceed to show.
I. Of doctrinal teachings concerning God and his government.
Upon the face of the theology of the Pagans, this fact is conspicuous, that there is no one of their gods who is invested with the reins of universal empire ; and, so far as their high gods are concerned, they have little to do with the government of men, except in cases of emergency; and even then their interposition is arbitrary, and regu. lated by no fixed principles or definite and settled laws. Their wrath is invoked upon enemies, or their favor implored for friends on special occasions, and is secured or averted by bribes or sacrifices, which demonstrate beyond all question that they are not presumed to be actuated by other considerations than those of policy and expediency, nor guided ever by abiding and unchanging principles.
To-day they love, and to-morrow they hate ; now they are friends, and soon they are implacable enemies. This day they bless, and the next day they curse. These alternations from love to hate, from friendship to enmity, and from blessing to cursing, are regulated by no fixed principles, and are therefore never to be depended upon as a permanent state of things, one way or the other. Herein is the contrast between heathenism and Christianity. The gods of the former are fickle, changeable, partial, and unjust; and what they do to-day cannot be regarded as a safe index to what they may do to-morrow, because they are not guided by principle. But the Deity who is revealed in Christianity is infinitely perfect in all his attri. butes. Knowing all things, he has never cause to change the plan which his first thoughts designed. To him there are no contingencies, no emergencies that were not foreseen and provided for in the original plan. He has there. fore no need to resort to expedients, or to frame plans of temporary policy. The great principle on which he laid the basis of his rule over the universe, is broad enough, and deep enough to meet all the shapes of swift contin
gence," and to cover all circumstances. It sweeps the whole circle of the past, the present, and the future, and is pervaded by rules that run unbroken and without exception through all the ages and cycles of eternity. Out of the profoundest depths of his being comes the central and eternal principle to do good and communicate good at all times and under all circumstances. The well instructed Christian can never be in doubt as to the question what God will do for him, for he knows that he will do him good. How God will do, or in what manner he will com. municate good, he may not know. But he rests upon a settled law, a firm and immovable principle, which he sees illustrated and demonstrated every day, in the fact that the " sun rises upon the evil and the good, and the rain falls upon the just and the unjust," and by this he is assured that the Lord will do him good, and not evil, now and ever. On the firm basis of a principle like this, hope may rest secure, and in the inidst of the darkest and most threatening aspect of the world, fail not, falter not, because it is founded upon a rock that cannot be moved.
It may be said further, and in perfect truth, that this contrast obtains not only between Paganism and Christianity, but also between the popular theology of this day and the system known under ihe name of Universalism. The general idea held forth in the creeds of the world, is somewhat as follows: God created man, and placed him in a state of “probation," and in a world the issue of whose vicissitudes was uncertain. It might turn out one way, or it might not. Very early in man's history_he sinned, and by that act, as the catechism has it, “ Fell under God's wrath and curse, and so became liable to all the miseries of this life, death itself, and the pains of hell forever.” It was a sad calamity which involved not merely the actors in the scene of the garden, but also all their posterity in death, “ temporal of the body, spiritual of the soul, and eternal of both." Let it now be asked, by what fixed principle or abiding rule or law of God's gove ernment is this case to be met and this evil to be overcome ? What law of God, what rule of action is there which he can apply to the case ? None whatever, with any hope of repairing the damage done. But the teachings are clear, and the books are explicit in the testimony