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It finds us offenders, and speaks to us the language of terror and of encouragement. It would cure us of the madness of sin by alarming our fears. It would win us back to God and to obedience by gentle invitations of love, and soft whispers of hope. To the penitent it speaks of the oblivion of offences, of pardon, and final acceptance and favor.
It finds us heirs of sorrow and affliction, subject to apprehension, to despondency and heaviness of heart, and it tells us of the "sweet uses" and exalting influence of adversity, teaches us that the chastisements we feel are not ordained in malevolence, but are the visitations of mercy, designed to purify, to raise and refine our spirits. It would bring an alleviation or remedy of care, of solicitude, and melancholy, by inculcating trust in that common Father, who clothes with beauty the grass of the field, and without whose notice not a sparrow falls, nor "a hair drops from the number of those on our heads."
Such, in few words, is the great moral purpose Christianity. It is designed not merely to excite the intellect, but to cure the distemper of sin, to calm apprehension, to soften the pillow of sickness, and, finally, to pluck from death its sting. In this view it is entitled to something more than cold respect. Is it not the assistant of our virtue, the strengthner of our weakness, our unfailing refuge in grief and melancholy? Does it utter vain words? Drop for a moment the idea of its heavenly origin; regard its general spirit, provisions, and object; is it not a beautiful and majestic fabric,
under which the weak, and sorrowing, and sinning nations may gather for shelter and solace? As such, should we not venerate and cherish it? Should we
not look into its records, and endeavor to become familiar with the pleasing and lofty conceptions it would inspire? Is there any apology for neglect?
We feel that we are responsible beings; we know the weakness and treachery of our hearts, and the strong seducing power of temptation. Christianity furnishes us with powerful weapons of defence and safety. Shall we deprive ourselves of those weapons, or forego their use, from indolence, pride, or carelessness, and go forth unarmed to a conflict in which many strong ones have bowed themselves, and many mighty have fallen? Rather let us listen to the voice of Jesus; let us sit at his feet, and allow his words to sink deep into our hearts. From whatever source they are derived, they are words of great power and efficacy, able to guide all, who meekly receive them, into paths of security, of comfort, and holy joy. Were they words of man's invention,―mere human sounds-they are so suited to our needs, so fitted to heal and save, that we should be culpable in turning away our ear. They would still deserve to be treasured up in our memories, and laid near our hearts, and be made the daily food of our thoughts.
To undervalue or neglect Christianity, then, would seem to bring reproach upon our understandings and hearts. A liberal curiosity should prompt us to scan its doctrines, as they are conversant about objects of
the highest knowledge; and a sense of weakness and deficiency, and sin, and ardent aspiration after whatever most dignifies and embellishes our natures, should induce us to apply to it as full of the best practical wisdom, the teacher of a generous and sublime morality, the parent and strengthner of the noblest virtue, of the most effectual comfort, and best founded and sweetest hopes. It bears evidence of its worth on every feature. He must be insensible and careless, one would think, who is incapable of discerning this worth, or discerning it, is not moved and attracted.
The motive to the study of Christianity from its intrinsic excellence, from the sublime reach of its instructions, and its divinely breathing spirit, must have weight with all thinking minds. On Christians we may urge another motive,-faith in its heavenly origin. Jesus presented himself to the world in the character of God's ambassador. He came, as he tells us, in his Father's name; in his name he taught, speaking not of himself, but uttering to the world the things, which were shown him of the Father. His instructions thus have, in the view of his followers, a divine sanction. His religion is heaven's gift. Its doctrines and its morality, its promises and its threatenings, all proceed from God. Such is the Christian's faith. He believes that through Jesus God has spoken to the world. And when he speaks, shall man refuse to listen? When he utters his voice, shall man shut his ear? Shall we reject his offer to instruct and save us? selves Christians; let us not give occasion for the re
We own our
proach, that we are such but in name. We believe that Christianity is no forged tale; it partakes of the spirit neither of fanaticism, nor of imposture, but speaks the words of truth and soberness. And shall we manifest no strong desire to understand and apply its language? Shall we bestow more time on the attainment of every species of trifling knowledge, which accident or fashion recommends, than we allow to the teachings of God's unerring spirit? Let us be more consistent. If we reverence Christianity for the stamp of divinity it bears on the face of it, let us show our reverence by our efforts to become acquainted with the sublime truths it imparts.
Our limits will not allow us to dwell on the benefits to be derived from an attentive study of Christianity.It is only by careful investigation that we can distinguish between a genuine and a corrupt form of it, between the thing itself and its abuses, between the instructions of Jesus, and the erroneous additions of men. An enlightened and pure faith is the offspring of inquiry and reflection. The same methods nourish and confirm it. The evidences of Christianity are found to gather strength in proportion as we become familiar with it. They derive confirmation from a thousand latent and unlooked for sources. Intimate use, time, acquaintance with the sorrows of life, and gradual falling away of the objects of our earthly attachment, cause its value to be more and more felt, and inspire a growing interest in it.
But especially we should acquaint ourselves with
Christianity, that we may be assisted in the regulation of our temper and conduct. The end of doctrine is practice. Let us then read the discourses of our Saviour, the narratives of the evangelists and writings of the Apostles, not in a spirit of cavilling and levity, or to furnish ourselves with weapons of theological warfare, but with an earnest desire to excite and invigorate holy affections, to exalt our piety, to enlarge our charity, to enliven hope, to fortify our feeble resolutions, to nourish the virtues of humility, meekness, patience, submission, and trust, to moderate our attachment to the world, to secure cheerful reflections in sickness and age, and become finally prepared for a removal to a better and happier life.
WE are not accustomed to look for any remarkable display of tender and charitable feelings, in the "Spirit of the Pilgrims." As the organ of the exclusive party we do not expect it to abstain from denunciation and reproach. But when it proceeds, as in the number for December, to include under the sweeping charge of infidelity, such men as William Whiston, Chillingworth, Priestley, Wakefield, Lindsey, and Belsham, we pause with utter astonishment. Yet such is the fact. All these individuals are expressly named as infidels