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to every temptation, and to make his conduct conformable to the line of his duty.
It is, therefore, surely, of all consolations to a serious mind the greatest, to be assured of the ever-present aid of the Holy Spirit of God, to guard us in the hour of temptation, to strengthen the weakness of our nature, to stimulate our languishing affections, to curb our unruly desires, to warn us of our dangers, and to guide us through the dark mazes of a deceitful world to eternal happiness. And this consolation the Christian religion affords us in the strongest manner, by assuring us that our heavenly Father will give this Holy Spirit to them that ask him in sincerity and faith. And well may we, therefore, cry out with the enraptured Apostle, " thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory
through our Lord Jesus Christ !”
A fourth excellence of the Christian religion consists in its clearly discovering to us a future state of eternal rewards and punishments.
How far this important point is discoverable by the light of reason, and how far it was discovered by the gentile world, has afforded ample matter of dispute among the learned. On the one hand, it must be allowed, that some of the
wiser heathens expressed very strongly their persuasion of a life to come, in which the unequal distributions of Providence in this life would be corrected by unerring justice. But, on the other, it cannot be denied, that this belief was founded
upon no certain promise of the Deity, and, therefore, could only be matter of opinion at the best; that it was chiefly held out to view, as a motive to enforce the practice of virtue in this life, for the benefit and happiness of society; that it was totally unknown to many nations, and to the lower class of people in all; that it was steadily denied by some whole sects of phi, losophers; and, lastly, that, even among the wisest and best enquirers, it was mixed with great doubt and perplexity, so as at times to stagger their hopes, and confound their most laboured deductions of reason.
That the Jewish law was founded only upon, temporal promises, and confirmed by temporal sanctions, we need but open our bibles to be convinced. Health, length of days, a numerous offspring, and affluence of the comforts of the present life, is all that is promised to the righteous: sickness, calamity, want, deprivation of life and issue, is all that is threatened to the sinner. ' And, though there can be no doubt, that the antient and wiser Jews had a full confidence
of future and eternal happiness, founded either upon some clear traditional promise of God, or upon a secondary and spiritual sense which they put upon some general promises contained in their scriptures ;--yet - Josephus himself owns that the generality of them, who looked not beyond the letter of the law, either saw not, or vèrè little influenced by, à distant and future expectation *
To the Gospel therefore, and to the Gospel alone, we must go for a clear and general discovery of a future state, which can alone explain and unravel the æconomy of providence in this, And there our warmest expectations will not be disappointed. It will tell us, in plain and legible characters, that the present life is but a state of trial and probation, and, therefore, a mixture of sorrow and joy, wickedness and virtue, folly and wisdom; that our hopes and views will not perish in the grave; but that there shall be à resurrection, both of the just and of tha', the world háth appointed a day in the which he will judge the world in righteousness, by that man whom he hath ordained.
• Vide Joseph, Antiq. Jad. 1. xviii, e. 2.
Whilst, therefore, with pity we look back upon the nations who were ignorant of eternal life, and wandered amidst perplexities and shadows; whilst we sympathize with those bitter pangs they must have felt, when they successively committed their dearest friends to the grave or funeral pile, without any hope of ever meeting them again; whilst we consider that dark night of ignorance and despair, in which we ourselves must have remained, had all our hopes terminated in the grave ;--what just reason have we to cry out with the fervent gratitude of the Apostle, “ Blessed be the God and Fa“ ther of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according " to his abundant mercy has begotten us again “ to a lively hope, through the resurrection of ** Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inherit“ ance, incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth “ not away, reserved in heaven for such as are
kept through faith unto salvation.”
A fifth excellence of the Christian religion consists in its affording us a most perfect rule of life and manners, by recommending to our prac- _ tice " whatsoever things arë true, whatsoever " things are honest, whatsoever things are just, " whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things " are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report.” And this it has done in a manner far X 4
exceeding the most refined precepts of wisdom ever before delivered either to the Jewish or gentile world..
To point out the numerous and fundamental errors of the several sects of philosophers,—to, trace the insufficiency of human wisdom, even in a Plato or a Socrates,-to mark the defective and partial morality of Judaic obstinacy, would be a long and arduous task; but a brief recapitulation of a few leading particulars will abundantly suffice to shew the superior excellence of the Gospel, as a rule of life and manners, in the several branches of our duty, whether they relate to God, to our neighbour, or to ourselves.
The religious rites of the gentile world, we have already seen, were a mixture of cruelty, obscenity, and superstition, suited to the monstrous objects, whom they worshipped under the name of Gods, and to the gross conceptions of their blind and corrupt adorers. And, though the Jewish worship was free from the base and idolatrous pollutions of heathenism, yet, in compliance with the carnal notions of a stubborn nation, ever prone to idolatry, and hankering after sensible objects of worship, it was burthened with cumbrous ceremonies and observances, with external rites and corporeal services; use