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by that divine Spirit, whose dictates they professed to declare to the children of men.
In the next place, when we direct our attention to those doctrines which the light of nature could but darkly discern, and never certainly demonstrate, we find that Christianity has decided them exactly in that manner which reason admits to be most probable, and which most directly promotes the interest of virtue and the happiness of society. The certainty of a future state-of judgment and retribution in the next period of our existence-of pardon on repentance-of assistance from God in our efforts to ima prove—the obligation and utility of prayer--the sua perintendance of divine Providence over all events, whether public or private, minutę or important. These doctrines of Christianity are such as the best men have ever wished to find true, though the wifest were never able to demonstrate, Nor is it merely the doctrines themselves, the manner in which they are proposed and established increases the proba bility that the fịrst preachers of the gospel were far removed from the extravagance and weakness of fanaticism ; they are proposed with great plainness and fimplicity; they are established, not merely by positive assertions, nor yet by subtle and intricate reason, ings, but by plain facts, proving at once the divine authority of the gospel in general, and the particular certainty of the resurrection from the dead that great decisive fact fo essential to all our hopes of life and immortality.
If we consider further, that Christianity exhibits this infinitely important scheme of doctrines, undebased by those puerile absurdities and wild extravagancies which are perpetually blended with all fanatical systems, our readiness to admit their divine original ought surely to be considerably encreased.
Let it then be remembered, that the Christian revelation passes by in silence, or expresses in general and guarded terms, many points which enthusiasts are apt to dwell on with peculiar complacency, and to dress up with a train of fictitious circumstances which a ready invention supplies, or a heated and deluded imagination mistakes for realities. Examine with this view the accounts which the New Testament gives us of a future state, and how totally unlike is it to the wild visions of fanaticism... We are told that good men shall rise with bodies “ glo“ rified and incorruptible.” We are taught that the nature of the happiness to be enjoyed in another life, cannot be distinctly apprehended by our present faculties. “ Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither “ hath it entered into the heart of man, what God “ hath prepared for them that love him.” It is declared that men will be rewarded in the next life, according to the use which they make of the ' talents with which they are entrusted in this ; that those who are here active and faithful, will hereafter be employed in more important trusts, and more extensive activity. We are led to believe that much of our happiness will consist in an encreased knowledge of God, and of his works ; in being “ made" like
unto him in purity and benevolence ;” in enjoying the society of higher spirits, and “ just men made
perfect.” We are * assured, that those who drop into the grave with minds sunk in the fordid and base pursuits of this world, and polluted with unrepented crimes, shall not enter into the kingdom of God. Thus every thing necessary to encourage virtue and religion is disclosed, without the intermixture of single circumstance which could inflame spiritual pride, indulge sensual desire, or gratify idle curiosity; we meet with no minute description of the pleasures, the employments, the glories of that future state, which might, perhaps if strongly impressed upon our imagination, draw us off from the necefsary business, or make us loath the innocent pleasures of the present life. We are taught "y that it is ap
pointed to all men once to die, and after that the judgment;" but of the intermediate state of those
+ Vid. the parable of the talents, Mat. xxv.
1 John iii. 2 & 3.
i Cor. vi. 9, 10. Vid. also Mat. xiji. 41-49. y Heb. ix. 27. Vid. also the entire 25th chapter of Mathew. Vid. also Bishop Law on the nature and end of death in the Christian covenant, annexed to his theory of religion, with the appendix.
who fleep in death, as we need only know that our state of trial terminates with this life, and that in the
grave no man can work,” so this only is positively and distinctly told : thus also the existence of fuperior orders of intelligences is asserted, but their diftinctions and offices, their powers and employments, as they concern not us, no attempt is made to difclose them.
It deserves to be noticed, that if the writers of the Gospels, Acts and Epistles, had been subject to the dominion of a heated imagination, and been misled by the delusive visions of fanaticism, many facts occurred in the course of the history they relate, which would have naturally led them to indulge in imagi-, nary excursions into the spiritual world, and to gratify their own vanity, as well as catch their readers attention by pretending to describe the particulars of that scene so interesting to human curiosity. They sometimes relate appearances of angels; sometimes they mention visions by which they were instructed in some important point of doctrine, or directed to some particular mode of conduct; especially many instances occur of individuals, well known to themselves, who had risen from the dead l; and above all, the leading fact on which their relation turns, is the resurrection of their Lord, who they assert " for forty days after was seen of them, and spoke
Acts i. 3.
“ of the things which belong to the kingdom of God.” Now did it not require more than ordinary fobriety of mind, as well as the strictest attention to truth, never to be seduced by such alluring opportunities to consecrate the fictions of art, or the delusions of imagination, as the dictates of heaven, and never once to break that filence they observed on all points, in which, however ardently men may desire information, it is not necessary they should obtain it.
Thus, whether we consider the importance of the doctrines which Christianity has advanced on the subject of our present relation to the Deity, and our future expectations from him, the clear dignified and convincing mode in which they are established, or the omission of all those topics, which either deceivers or fanatics would naturally have descanted on with particularity and eagerness, in every one of those views we perceive, that integrity and fobriety of mind which distinguished the first teachers of our faith ; and in every one we discover strong marks of genuine inspiration.