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Is Virtue, then, unless of Christian growth, Mere fallacy, or foolishness, or both ? Ten thousand sages lost in endless woe, For ignorance of what they could not know? That speech betrays at once a bigot's tongueCharge not a God with such outrageous wrong! Truly, not I—the partial light men have, My creed persuades me, well employ'd, may save; While he, that scorns the noon-day beam perverse, Shall find the blessing, unimproved, a curse. Let Heathen worthies, whose exalted mind, Left sensuality and dross behind, Possess, for me, their undisputed lot, And take, unenvied, the reward they sought. But still, in virtue of a Saviour's plea, Not blind by choice, but destin'd not to see ; Their fortitude and wisdom were a flame Celestial, though they knew not whence it came; Derived, from the same source of light and grace, That guides the Christian in his swifter race: Their judge was conscience, and her rule their law, That rule, pursu'd with rev'rence and with awe, Led them, however falt'ring, faint, and slow, From what they knew, to what they wish'd to know.
The subject of the present work has long and anxiously engaged the attention of the author. It was originally suggested to his mind, when occupied with his treatise on “ the Connection of Natural and Revealed Theology;" but, from the extreme delicacy, as well as magnitude of the argument, it has been often laid aside, and as often resumed, under the conflicting feelings of its difficulty and its importance.
At length, the conviction of his duty has overcome these doubts and hesitations; and whatever be its reception, it is given to the public, as the honest and deliberate sentiments of one, who has devoted his days and nights to its constant meditation.
According to the most received computation, the population of the world is supposed to be as follows:
Assuming these proportions, the whole number of Christians, at the present time, constitute about one-fifth of the human race. But the world, having existed four thousand years before the Christian era,
, and none, but the Jews, till that time, having been favoured with a Divine revelation, it becomes extremely hazardous, if not impossible, to estimate the amazing majority of the Heathen, as compared with members of the Jewish, or Christian Church. Perhaps, it would not be an exaggeration, if it were stated, as not less than an hundred
to a unit.