Imatges de pÓgina
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nor practice any other wickednefs."

On the last day of the fhews, Blandina was again brought forth with Ponticus, a youth of fifteen (who had both been daily led in to fee the tortures of the reft :) and the multitude being greatly enraged against them on account of their firmly refufing to fwear by the idols, and their contemning the gods, no pity was fhewn either to the fex of the one, or the youth of the other. The whole circuit of tortures was inflicted on them without effect. Ponticus, after a most heroic exertion of patience, to which he was animated by his fifter Blandina, gave up the ghoft. Blandina, having firft been fcourged and expofed to the wild beafts, and alfo fet in the iron chair, was at last enclofed in a net and thrown to a bull, which toffed her for fome time: fhe ftill appeared, however, fuperior to all her fufferings, borne up by hope and faith and communion with Chrift, until being run through with a fword, fhe at length breathed out her foul. Even the heathens owned that no woman had ever before fuftained fuch tortures. But their rage was not yet fated. On the contrary, it was heightened by their disappointment to fuch a degree, that they caft to the dogs the bodies of those who had died in prifon, as well as the mangled remains of fuch as had been torn by the wild beafts, or fcorched, or beheaded, watching day and night left any fhould bury them. Some gnafhed with their teeth on the dead bodies. Others derided and infulted them.

Even the more fympathifing

tauntingly afked, Where is their God, and what advantages have they derived from that religion, which they preferred to life? At the end of fix days the bodies of the martyrs were reduced to afhes, and thrown into the Rhone, that no remains of them might be found on the earth. This was done by the heathens under the vain idea of deterring others, by destroying their hope of a refurrection: for it was this hope, they faid, which led men to introduce a ftrange and new religion, to contemn the most exquifite torments, and even joyfully to undergo death. "Let us now fee if they will rife again, and if their God is able to affift them, and deliver them out of our hands."

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This epiftle gives us a high idea of the piety of Irenæus, to whofe worth a farther teftimony is given by Eufebius in an extract from a letter addreffed by the church of Lyons to Eleutherius, Bishop of Rome, wherein Irenæus is spoken of as a follower of the Teftament of Christ," and strongly recommended. It appears from this extract, that it was intended that Irenæus himself should be the bearer of the letter; but whether he actually proceeded on the miffion is not certainly known. Circumftances feem to favour the fuppofition that he visited Rome about this time. His ftay there, however, could not have been of long duration; for on the martyrdom of Pothinus, about the year 179, Irenæus was chofen to fucceed him as Bifhop of the church of Lyons.

(To be continued.)

Religious Communications.

For the Panoplist.

THE WICKEDNESS OF SKEPTICISM IN
RELIGION.

DOUBT and indecifion in any business are unhappy and injurious; in religion they are wicked and fatal. While the mind is

clouded with uncertainty, it has little comfort in the promises of religion; it has little dread of its threatenings, and yields a reluctant obedience to its laws. As decifion elevates, fo uncertainty depreffes a rational being. Where light fhines, to be undetermined respecting things of serious afpect, to have no fixed opinion refpecting things of infinite moment, is to wound the dignity of reafon, to disclaim the honours of a found mind.

Uncertainty respecting religion is criminal, because there is evidence to fatisfy a teachable mind. To fuppofe that God has required a religious belief of men, without affording them evidence for the bafis of that belief, is a grofs reflection on his goodness. Nothing can prefent the Divine Being in a more difmal form, than to fuppofe he requires faith, where he has not furnished conclufive evidence.

No man is under obligation to believe without evidence; where there is evidence, it is always criminal not to affent. That the fulleft credit ought to be given to rev. elation, a fuperficial examination alone will make fufficiently certain. Christianity is fupported on a folid bafis. We have, to fay the leaft, as great reafon to believe there were fuch perfons, as Jefus Chrift, Paul, and Peter, who did the things afcribed to them, as we have to believe

Vol. I. No. 3.

there were fuch men, as Cicero, Seneca, and Cæfar, who did the hiftory of the New Teftament has things afcribed to them. The all thofe marks of authenticity, which give credibility to other ancient writings; and Jewish and pagan writers confirm many learned Dr. PRIESTLEY afferted parts of the narrative. The that "No other history is attended with any evidence, that can be compared with that of the gofpel."

JOSEPHUS gives information concerning, "One Jesus, a wife man, if yet it be lawful to call him a man." He mentions his "miracles, crucifixion under PONTIUS PILATE, his refurrection the third day, and his numerous followers in his time." Within feventy years after his death TACI Tus wrote of "Chrift, as the author of the christian name, and put to death by PONTIUS PILATE, the Procurator in the reign of TiBERIUS." PLINY wrote to TRAJAN concerning "the christians, that they were wont to affemble together on a fet day, and to fing hymns to CHRIST, as GOD." Near the fame time SUETONIUS wrote, that the Emperors punished the chriftians on the fcore of their profeffing CHRIST. Neither Pagans nor Jews, who lived near the time of CHRIST, denied the mira cles he performed. Thus have enemies given their testimony in fupport of the chriftian cause. The truth of the gospel being established by thefe and a variety of other proofs, we have only to read the facred volume, to learn what is truth.

With the fame facility and cer

tainty, that we learn the opinions and laws of any legislator, we may learn the doctrines and precepts of the chriftian legiflator. Men may and do form different opinions, and fo they do concerning the writings of Plato, the conftitution under which they live, and the laws made the prefent year. Though there may be oppolite opinions, the majority will think effentially alike. Should a malefactor, to excufe himself, plead oppofite opinions refpecting the law, would this be accepted in a judicial court? Will fuch an excuse be accepted in the fupreme court of the universe ?

God has given men power to examine and decide on the fubject of religion; this renders religious skepticism criminal. Any man of common fenfe and honest inquiry may fatisfy his mind refpecting all effential doctrines. The laws and doctrines of chrif tianity are as eafily understood, as the laws of any community, as the doctrines of any religion. We have only to open the facred volume, and truth is vifible before us; we have only to look, and the path of life is feen. know, what is truth faring man, though a fool,

not err."

All may "the

way

need

Men ought immediately to form their opinions on religious fubjects, because their opinions influence their moral and religious conduct. Though the paffions of men often impel them to actions, which their judgments difapprove; yet nothing can be more abfurd, than to fuppofe that opinions have no influence on actions. Will he, who denies the divinity of the Saviour, the holiness of the fabbath, the divine appointment of baptifm and the Lord's fupper, conduct like the man, who feri

oufly believes these things? Will he, who makes convenience his law, and his own pleasure the highest object, conduct as man, who loves the law of the Lord, and feels the charity, which feeketh not her own? No dream of enthufiafm is more wild, than the indifference refpecting religious opinions, which fome perfons avow.

Their religion indeed is "made of fuch stuff, as dreams are." Doubts and uncertainty will inevitably render morality inconftant, devotion languid, hope wavering, fortitude feeble, and the character fufpicious.

The infinite importance of religion preffes an immediate decifion on the mind. Is it important for a phyfician to entertain thofe views of chymistry, anatomy, and medicine, beft calculated to guard against contagion, and to heal the difeafes of the body? But what is the body, what is life, compared with the immortal foul? Yet, fhould we not deteft, as a murderer, the physician, whose mind was not decided refpecting the different fyftems of thefe fciences? What fhould we think of a prince, prefident or ruler, whose mind was not stored with political knowledge, whofe opinion was not decided refpecting the best mode of government? Yet what are the burfting bubbles of human governments, what are nations and empires, compared with the gofpel of JESUS, the crown and throne of glory, prepared for the children of GOD?

fkies

"Religion's all; defcending from the To wretched man, the goddess in her

left

Holds out this world, and in her right

the next."

Thefe remarks fhow how improper and wicked it is for any man or party of men to complain of oth

1805.3

ers for adopting theological opinions for themselves. If it be duty for all men to be determined for themselves on religious doctrines; then it must be duty for every individual. It is his duty to adopt juft opinions; if he do not, I may withdraw my influence and fupport from him; I may by fair means endeavour to prevent his propagating his bad principles; but him I may not affail with any weapon, but found argument, drawn from the fcripture magazine. It is duty for every man to form a creed for himself, but not for others. Every man has an equal right; therefore I am as liable to the inquifition of my neighbour, as he is to mine.

If it be duty for all men to form religious opinions; then are they accountable to GOD for the manner, in which they perform this fervice. GOD requires men to believe according to a known standard of truth, his word is truth. He, that believes according to the opinions of his fathers or ministers, or his own wicked wifhes, does not perform his duty, does not obey any command. Human tribunals have cognizance of actions only; at the bar of GOD thoughts, and wishes, and defires, and opinions will be judged, for the Judge knoweth the heart. Not only conduct, but belief will be examined in the judgment of the great day; not only actions, but opinions will be judged, and In that punished, or rewarded. awful moment, when all mankind fhall stand before GOD, voluntary errors refpecting religious truth, pride of philofophy, and obftinacy of opinion, will be placed on the left hand of the Judge: therefore it is of infinite importance, that we take heed, how and what we hear, and read, and believe.

PATMOS.

For the Panoplist.
OBSERVATIONS ON HEB. xiii. 7.

99

-Whofe FAITH follow, confider-
ing the end of their conversation.
THIS is understood to be an
exhortation to remember departed
minifters. For although the firft
claufe, as it ftands tranflated,
feems to forbid this conftruction,
there is nothing in the original to
forbid it; but on the contrary
every thing feems to require it.
The strict reading is this; Re-
member your guides, who have spoken
to you the word of God; whofe
FAITH follow, confidering the end
of their converfation.

We are here instructed,

I. That the virtuous lives of christian men are to be specially remembered, as being more interefting than any natural qualities, any fhining talents, or fcientifick at tainments. Nay, if they have been preachers of the first eminence, their general conversation is as much to be remembered, as any thing they have fpoken, and perhaps more; because a truly chriftian life is a continual lecture; more luminous, in some respects more perfuafive, and more edifying than all other preaching.

II. Here is a farther intimation that it is of particular confequence when we call to mind the converfation of fuch men, to confider the end of it. Inftructive and alluring as it is in the abstract, it is yet more fo, it seems, when we fo trace it, as to obferve where and how it terminates, or what is its refult; for this is the idea conveyed by the original term.

There are two ideas, indeed, which go to explain the end of fuch a conversation. One is, the point in which it did terminate in the first inftance. This is refult, in one view. And if this was in

cluded, the words which follow will appear to have a clofe connexion with it. "Jefus Chrift the fame yesterday, and today, and for ever." To hold him up in that view was the point, it feems, in which the converfation of thofe holy men terminated. All truly christian converfation terminates in the fame point. It holds up JESUS CHRIST as invariably worthy of perfect efteem, homage and confidence: the fame complete image of the invifible GOD, that he ever was; the fame allfufficient Mediator and Reftorer of fallen men; the fame gracious Mafter, incomparable Teacher, and Pattern for all to copy after; as true a Friend to his true followers now, as he was to his first difciples, and the fame unalterable friend for ever. This is the refult which Saint Paul brings to view, when he fays, For me to live, is CHRIST.

The other view of the refult of true chriftians' converfation, is a peaceful death; the beatifick approbation of their Divine Mafter, and the crown of life which he hath promised to the faithful. And thus a well known expofitor comments on the place. "Confider how comfortably, how joyfully, they finished their course."

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The infpired writer feems to intimate that a due contemplation of fuch prefent result, and final iffue of a chriftian life, muft excite in others a strong folicitude how they fhall attain to live in that manner and this is the question which is here anfwered. Confidering the end of their converfation, imitate their faith. This, it feems, is the way to live as they lived, and to live to the fame effect.

This important exhortation, FOLLOW THEIR FAITH, divides itfelf into two parts.

First, if we are to imitate their faith, we must have a care to receive the fame word of revelation which they received: inftead of leaning to our own understandings; inftead of grounding our faith on the wisdom of men; inftead of being content to have no more information from heaven than the light of nature gives; or no more of fcripture than the pride of philofophy will admit. We must look to it that we receive the divine fyftem entire, and that none of its effential parts be rejected. Otherwife, though we may feem to have faith, we have not the truth, but fomething elfe in its place.

We must watch againft those prejudices, thofe habits, and connexions, which make men unwilling, or afraid, to receive the whole truth; and which often induce a difowning of important parts of it. We mult embrace with particular folicitude, the peculiar things of divine revelation, which it was the fpecial defign of the bleffed gofpel to unfold: thofe new inftructions which our fallen condition rendered most deeply interefting; and which no finite being, without immediate direction from heaven, had either authority to give, or invention to conceive. It is here that the faith of true chriftians, from age to age, is most emphatically expreffed; and finds a most rational fatisfaction in relying fimply on the authority of God, and not on the conjectures and reafonings of men.

The piety and the virtues of thofe holy men we are here called to remember, did not grow out of human philofophy. Nor were they mere natural religion, or common morality. They grew out of the doctrine of CHRIST, and the glory of Gop manifested, and heavenly grace difplayed, by and

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