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U resulting from both. It has placed a' true « and real Divinity at the head of the “ universe ; a Nature, eternal in duration, “ unlimited in power, and unconfined by
space; an Intelligence unerringly wise, “ and unweariedly provident; and a will, "infinitely just, unspeakably kind, and in“ conceivably pure. It represents man to “have been once exa&tly fitted to his sphere
of action, all moral harmony within, and “all natural order without; the central
point of this lower creation, and a proba“ 'tioner for a happy eternity in a higher. “ It then reverses the glass, and shews him " no longer moving in the orbit of duty, and “ receiving light and warmth from the Di
vinity, but voluntarily stooping to sin, “ apd necessarily subjected to wretchedness ; “ his body diseased, his understanding “ darkened ; and the little empire of his
passions and appetites, all risen in rebellion against his reason. It found his mind
perplexed with doubts, and his soul dis“ tracted with fears; conscious of weaknesses " that required the assistance of some kind “ intercession, and sensible.of guilt, that s needed the aid of some friendly atonement; “ but vainly casting a wishful eye through “ all the compass of created nature : sinking “ therefore in melancholy under the weight
• of sin, and shuddering with horror at the of world unknown. And it displays this “ kind intercessor, it points out this bene« volent atoner, to the eye of despairing man; " one fully qualified to mediate, from the “ purity of his will, and one absolutely able " to atone, from the dignity of his nature ; as a man interceding for the ruined mán. 6 hood, and a God appeasing the offended « Godhead; a friend descending from the
throne of heaven, and a Saviour conduct. “ing us to the happiness of it. Such å
system of religion, sanctioned as it was by precedent prophecies, and authenticated
by accompanying miracles, must carry con« viction of its divinity to the soul, melt “ even the obstinacy of prejudice, and pro
selyte even the profligacy of guilt. * "
But, even this blessed dispensation, admirably adapted as it is, to the state and condition, the wants and wishes, the comfort and happiness, the improvement and perfection of man, in his individual and social, his tem. poral and eternal, capacity, has failed, to a melancholy extent, of producing those happy results, which it is so well calculated to effect. The history of Christ's church upon earth has many dark and distressing pages in it; and sad recitals of wars and
* Whitaker's History of Man, vol. f. p. 185, 8vo.
persecutions, feuds and schisms, trenching equally upon individual and public felicity, occur in every part. So far, however, are these appearances, from impugning either the divinity or utility of our holy faith, that they form the strongest argument in favour of both. It was the prediction of our divine Master himself, that mankind should pervert, to the direst purposes, this inestimable blessing; and the accomplishment of the prophecy proves that it sprang from the fountain of eternal truth; while the evils which have connected themselves with the diffusion of christianity, having arisen altogether from the vices, and passions, and prejudices of men, manifest, in the clearest manner, the usefulness of that system, which is designed to annihilare those vices, to controul those passions, and to eradicate those prejudices from the human heart.
It cannot be doubted, however, that a great proportion of those evils, which have thus, in every age, followed the march of the gospel through the world, and been pointed at by unbelievers as its necessary. effects, have had their origin in the false notions, or improper views, of those who have preached christianity to mankind. Two methods only can be conceived, by which (since inspiration has ceased) men may ac
quire a knowledge of their faith and duty as christians: either, by searching, and comparing, and investigating for themselves; or, by taking what they are to believe and practice, upon trust, from others. The bulk of mankind, for reasons sufficiently obvious, must always be of the latter description; and hence it happens, that, if those on whom they depend for religious information, have either erroneous opinions on the subject, or sinister reasons for perverting it; if they are either ignoraot or dishonest; their spiritual instructions, instead of being favourable to the best interests of the individual and so ciety; instead of awakening those feelings of genuine piety, and inspiring those principles of moral rectitude, which render men happy in themselves, and useful to others; will ex. cite only gloomy superstition, or wild enthusiasm ; operating alike to the destruction of personal peace, and the general happiness; and, in lieu of “ the fruits of the spirit, love,
joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and tempe“rance," bringing forth and scattering thro' the world the baleful seeds of a strife and “ envying, confusion, and every evil work.” What the common people” (or the great majority of mankind) were in the days of CHRIST, they have been in every subse
quent age, and continue to be in the present times. They must look up to others for spiritual knowledge ; and will “ hear” their teachers “gladly;" both, because the feeling of religion is common to their nature, and because the views which religion unfolds, are peculiarly delightful to the minds of those, to whom the present world is little else than a constant scene of toil, care, sorrow,
and privation. As, therefore, the “ faith” of the multitude thus necessarily “cometh by
hearing,” rather than by any exertion of thought, or laborious research in themselves; as they are thus glad to hear the tidings of salvation ; and, as their personal feelings and social conduct will naturally take their tinge from the complexion of their faith; so, it seems to be a point both of duty and wisdom in the legislature of every state, to provide. for the mass of the community, a body of Spiritual Instructors, who shall be (probably, if not certainly) duly qualified, by an appropriate education, to understand and teach the pure and salutary faith of Christ; be sufficiently enabled, by an abstraction from secular professions, " to attend,” altogether,
upon this very thing ;" and, independent for a worldly maintenance upon the caprice of their congregations, be at full liberty to follow the dictates of their consciences, and;