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able to shew, in the following discourse, that the Christian revelation, though promulgated only by a handful of illiterate fishermen, carries with it such manifest proofs of its utility and importance to mankind, of its wisdom and consistency, of its superiority over every other system to be found in the Gentile and Jewish world, as will sufficiently demonstrate its divine original, and, therefore, should induce us to become not only almost, but altogether Christians.
The first excellence of the Christian revelation, which points out its divine original, consists in its having given us clear and satisfactory notions of God and his worship, which are the foundation of all religion.
We need not look far into the volumes of heathen antiquity to be convinced, how vague, uncertain, and absurd were the notions of all the gentile world concerning the nature and existence of a Deity. In the early ages of the world, the grossest degree of polytheism prevailed, which led men to pay divine honours to heroes and dæmons, or four-footed beasts and creeping things, nay even to vegetables, stocks, and stones. Strangers to the one true God, who dwelleth not in temples made with hands, they multiplied the number of their false ones to an almost incredible degree; insomuch that we are told by a very learned antient writer *, that not less than thirty thous sand gods were worshipped within the walls of Rome.
Nor was their adoration of these deities less ridiculous and brutal, than their existence was false and fictitious. The same darkness of sua perstition, which drewmen to worship these vanities of a distempered imagination, impelled them also td worship them in the grossest and most impure manner.
Their sacred rites were a mixture of the most savage cruelty, the inost abominable lewdness, and the most ridiculous buffoonery, that ever disgraced human nature: suited, indeed, to the monstrous and corrupt idols to whom they were addressed, but uns worthy of that High and Lofty One, who inhabiteth eternity.
This species, however, of idol-worship, was too gross to gain credit or esteem in the more enlightened ages of the world. Its follies and absurdities were too glaring to stand the test of sober reason and philosophical enquiry. Асeordingly, we find some faint attempts in a Plato
or a Socrates, to introduce something more refined and reasonable ; either deduced from their own laborious researches, or, more probably, derived from some commerce with the Jewish writings or teachers. And, indeed, many others of the wiser sort, though in their outward
practice they conformed to the superstitions of their country, yet, inwardly and in their writings, condemned and despised them. And how was it possible for them to do otherwise, amidst such a mass of debasing and inexplicable ideas of their attributes ? But what then was the consequence of all this? They saw, indeed, the follies of these false gods : but the mists of prejudice and ignorance had so blinded their understandings, that they were still unable either to discover the true God, or to point out the relation he bore to man, or the service that was due to him from man. Instead, therefore, of growing wiser than their deluded forefathers, they either fell inta total atheism or irresolute scepticism; either to acknowledge no God, or to doubt all.
Such was the state of the heathen world, a mixture of darkness, superstition, and doubt, even in the 'most enlightened ages, and when they had carried almost every species of knov. ledge, which depended not on divine revelation, to the highest degree of human perfection.
The Jews indeed, it must be acknowledged, had once clearer and better conceptions of the Deity. The Almighty had revealed himself to his chosen people, in plain and legible characters, and had given the most signal display of his glorious nature and attributes, both in his written word and the wonders of his providence Yet all these were insufficient to preserve a gross and carnal people from falling into notions and practices unworthy of their divine Legislator. For, even in the earliest ages, when God himself condescended, as it were, to lead them by. the hand, they were ever prone to sink into the idolatry of the neighbouring nations, and to cry out, “ Make us gods, which shall go before us.” And, in later times, their Rabbis, and wise men falsely so called, had grafted so many superstitions upon the pure worship of the God of their fathers, that the Jewish faith and ritual were little
than the belief and services of gentile authority.
It remained, therefore, for the Christian doctrine to bring life and immortality to light, by banishing these false and pestilential notions, and to lead men to right conceptions of their religious belief and duty, by acquainting them with the real nature and perfections of the one true God, and the necessary consequences of them: and this it has done in the plainest and most effectual manner, by assuring us, that there is one eternal, independent, unchangeable, omnipresent, infinite, all-wise, all-powerful Being, without body, parts, or passions, without beginning or end of days, the maker, preserver, and governor of all things, of infinite goodness, justice, and truth, endued with every moral and natural perfection, in whom we live, move, and have our being; whom, therefore, we are bound to love, adore, and obey, with the most fervent affection, the most profound reverence, the most unfeigned humility, and the most pure and refined sentiments of a devout heart.
them : erroneous
It farther points out to us his existence in the character of three persons, united in one God; to each of whom we stand in a peculiar relation, though we cannot fathom or comprehend their mysterious essence; to the Father, as our creátor and parent; to the Son, as our redeemer from sin and death; and to the Holy Spirit, as the sanctifier of our hearts, the comforter of our drooping spirits, and our guide into all truth.
This is a description of the Deity, so new and before upheard of, so full and satisfactory; so agreeable to the pure dictates of our reason and understanding, as is sufficient to banish all