Imatges de pÓgina
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preserved himself with exemplary care from evil influence: he continued to be the righteous Noah.

The manners of the present age are not so dreadfully depraved, vice and crime are not so dark and universal, but virtue still requires support-and the labors of her friends are not unneeded. The firmness and integrity of Noah may be imitated by all, who wish to see their fellow-creatures increasing in goodness and advancing to higher degrees of moral purity. Those who delight to walk with God have much to do in opposing the spread of moral corruption, and exerting their influence and giving the force of their example on the side of virtue and piety. Vice still finds friends and followers; and it becomes the good, by wholesome and wise precepts, and active efforts, to diminish the number of its votaries, and to lead them back to Him to whom their duty is owing, and with whom alone safety and peace can be found. In no age of the world have its inhabitants been so just and perfect, as not to need the advice and reproof of the more excellent among them; and none who have boldly ventured to advise and reprove, from a sense of duty and a desire to please God, will fail of their reward. Noah was preserved from the general destruction brought upon the men of his age; and every one who assists in increasing the authority and the spread of goodness and religion, will at length enjoy the rewards which God and religion have to bestow.

SERMON I.

On the Genius of Christianity.

Philippians iii. 8.—I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.

Religion, to prove a real blessing to man, must be suitable to his nature and his condition. It must be such as consists with a rational, intelligent, and moral being, and with the fluctuating and fleeting circumstances of human existence; and whilst it improves and exalts his moral and mental powers, it must guard him against the changes to which he is exposed, and enable him to derive permanent benefits from these changes.

Without religion, indeed, he can scarcely exist; and in every state, from the most savage to the most civilized, he has sought it for himself, (where the advantages of revelation have been denied ;) he has invented something under the name of religion, from which the wants of his moral being might be supplied; out of which he might draw that nourishment for his mind and those stimulants for his affections, which are as essential to his peace and satisfaction, as essential to his spiritual existence, as natural food is to his corporeal.

In how far has he succeeded, however, in supplying his own wants, and acquired the real blessing we set out by describing? Have the systems he framed, improved and exalted him—or, on the contrary, exercised that influence

under which he became more selfish, more a creature of passion, more depraved? If we advert to the real state of religion among mankind, in different ages of the world, we meet with an answer to these questions, but it is an unwelcome one. W'e perceive them votaries to a system which neither purified the affections nor soothed the heart, neither strengthened the moral obligations by which men are bound to each other, nor drew them into a close and holy intimacy with the Deity. Religion was, for the most part, a tissue of unmeaning ceremonies, an occasion for ostentatious display, a stimulant to the grosser passions and desires of the human heart, and a name under which vice and immorality were not only tolerated but patronized. We may easily decide whether religion, under such a form and of such a character, were beneficial or otherwise, to its votaries; and we shall be suprised that those who sought moral freedom and peace were so ready to sink themselves into the most vile and abject slavery.

Such, too often, was natural religion. That it might have been different, more pure, more improving, we shall not deny; in some few cases it was so; a few men came forth to purify what was already established, or to substitute in its place something more worthy of rational beings: but their efforts almost entirely failed, and themselves may be compared to meteors darting across the gloom, and by their sudden brightness rendering its obscurity more dense and portentous. But the religion which Divine Goodness has revealed, is not liable to the weighty objections alledged against the religion of the

heathen world. It is liable to no objection; but rather deserves universal commendation. Its excellencies and

beauties are apparent on the instant; and those who permit themselves to receive it as divine, and store their minds with its enlightening instructions, and pour into their bosoms its rich consolations and hopes, experience that it is, indeed, and in the highest sense of the term, a blessing.

"I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Such is the sentiment of an Apostle, who was well acquainted with the religion to whose profession he had been called by the risen and exalted Jesus. Such is the value he affixed to it, esteeming it above all things else-above all knowledgeabove all possessions-and allowing nothing merely earthly to be placed in competition with it. Nor was the Apostle singular in his opinion. The Evangelists and Apostles all regard it as the most gracious gift of God. The Scriptures constantly speak of it as the evidence of his love; and it is so, because it provides in the most effectual manner for the security, the improvement, and the happiness of those on whom he has bestowed it.

We have said that religion, in order that it may prove a real blessing to man, must consist with his nature and condition. Let Christianity be tried by such a rule, and it will not be found wanting. We may submit it to this trial-we shall then elicit its excellence at the same time that we justify and commend the Apostle for using the language we have read. Let us consider man as a rational

and moral being, and as one prompted by the hope of immortality, and show how well Christianity approves itself to his best reason-allies itself to his purest and most exalted feelings-connects itself with his existence-and becomes the most beautiful and glorious part of it.

Superior to all other inhabitants of the world, man is possessed of reason. In his corporeal frame, mind is implanted to be his light and his guide; to assist him in making the circumstances of his abode subserve his purposes; and to connect him with invisible and eternal things. He learns, through the possession of this great and noble treasure, that it should be improved, and not lie uncultivated-unemployed. And he is prompted to the cultivation of his mental powers by the pleasure which the possession of knowledge communicates-by beholding the honor and advantages it bestows-and by the desire of making himself useful to the world: and Christianity requires this cultivation as a sacred duty. It teaches us that God has bestowed upon his creatures no talent in vain. It proves to us that an account of all the talents bestowed, will be required at our hands. In the course of his public duty, our Lord aimed to impress this truth deeply on the minds of his hearers. It is inculcated by the parable of the talents, where he, who had been negligent and inactive, was punished and deprived of that which, judging from his conduct, he held in the lowest estimation.

It is sufficient that God has furnished his creature man with high intellectual powers, to prove that he wills their exercise and improvement. Why is it that such vast

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