Imatges de pÓgina

extinguish, while the mysteries of implicit faith are celebrated; to the authority of those repeated declarations that God is one, with which, as if in anticipation of the corruptions of religion, his Spirit has strewed so thickly the pages of holy writ*.

2. Christianity is a doctrine according to godliness, from the views which it exhibits of the moral attributes of God, especially of his acceptance of the obedience of his creatures, and his dealings with those who transgress his law.

Among the numberless errors respecting the disposition of the Deity towards his creatures, which compose the natural history of religion, none have given rise to more revolting superstitions, to darker, more bloody and more atrocious practices, than those which relate to his punishment of sin. The mixture of evil with good which the present scene exhibits, appears to have furnished one of the earliest problems which the human under

*We may see in the Hindoo religion, the danger of corrupting the doctrine of the divine unity, even by verbal distinctions and metaphysical abstractions. Their Trinity is, among the refined classes, a sort of Sabellian personification of the attributes of the Deity; Brama representing the creating, Siva the destroying, and Vischnu the preserving energy of the one God, Braam; but among the uncultivated it is a gross polytheism; and such every scheme of a Trinity has a tendency to become, were it not for the influence of extra

neous causes.

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standing has applied itself to solve, as it is one of the last of which it attains a satisfactory solution. Perhaps we should esteem those nations most fortunate, who referred it to the existence of two distinct rulers of the world, a good and an evil being, since they thus preserved one object of their love and confidence. The more common effect has been, to lead men to attribute a mixture of malignity to the creator and ruler of the world, which made him view the happiness of the human race with jealousy, and delight more in afflicting than in blessing them.

If the question of the simple existence of evil in the world could thus confound the powers of the human understanding, we cannot be surprised that it should wander still further from the truth, in considering God as inflicting evil for the punishment of transgression. Some of the worst passions of our own nature enter into the feelings with which we regard those who offend us. Our indignation passes all bounds, and we seek to repay with double fury on the aggressor the injury which he has caused us; nay even in the blindness and phrensy of our rage, we sometimes vent it, not upon the criminal himself, but on some one connected with him, or even some one wholly unconnected, rather than bear the torment of


unsatisfied revenge. When beings whose resentments are so fierce and blind, transfer their own feelings to the Deity, what can be the result, but the most unworthy conceptions of the motive and the spirit of his chastisements? He will be supposed to look on offenders, not with the pain with which infinite benevolence contemplates creatures capable of happiness wandering from its path; not with the aversion with which spotless holiness regards the spread of pollution and corruption through its works; but with the wounded pride of one who is enraged that his authority should be slighted, and yet whose anger is so undistinguishing, has so little reference to the amendment of the creature who has excited it, that the suffering or death of some innocent or even irrational substitute may appease it, though the contrition and reformation of the transgressor is inadequate to this effect.

It is one of those marks of a divine origin which we discover in the Jewish system more clearly, the more we compare it with the state of the world at the time of its introduction, that it does not proceed on the supposition that moral guilt could be removed by sacrifices, though it appoints them in great number and variety for transgressions of that strict ritual under which, for very wise purposes, it

was ordained that the Jews should live. The instances alleged to the contrary, however they are to be explained, cannot invalidate this general remark: for had the Jewish lawgiver meant to sanction the notion, that sacrifices could remove presumptuous sins, or moral guilt, it is impossible that only two ambiguous examples of it should have been found in the whole of the law. The Mosaic dispensation itself laid down moral precepts as the means by which the favour of God was to be obtained, and the prophets repeatedly and pointedly declare the inefficacy of any thing else than holiness to secure his favour, or repentance and amendment to recover it.

The doctrine of the necessity and the efficacy of repentance to forgiveness is very clearly taught in the Christian Scriptures. To bring forth fruits worthy of repentance, was the exhortation which the Baptist gave, when he announced the Messiah's approach, without the smallest intimation that any thing was to be performed by him, without which their repentance would have no avail. In the summary of Christian petition we are encouraged to hope for the forgiveness of our own sins, as we forgive those of our brethren; and the manner of this forgiveness is explained in our Lord's conversation with Peter, Luke xviii. 3. B 2

"If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him." The parable of the master, who, when he found his servant had nothing to pay, freely forgave him every thing; and that of the prodigal son, who, when he arose and returned to his father's house, was received by him with the melting tenderness of parental affection, are of themselves sufficient to show what our Lord represents as the temper of the Divine Being towards sinners: and in all his discourses, he makes good works the means of securing his favour, and repentance essential to the recovery of it. He speaks of his own death in various ways, but never once hints at its having any connexion with the disposition of God to forgive sinners, though, according to modern expounders of scripture, every other use and object of it were trivial, when compared with this. The language of the Epistles, those of Paul in particular, has been supposed to hold out a different view of the nature of the divine forgiveness; but the letters of this apostle cannot teach a doctrine at variance with his preaching, and he has himself declared what the substance of his preaching was: "Wherefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision; but I declared, first to those in Damascus, and in Jerusalem, and

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