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One seot of Protestants anathematizes another sect; every one holding forth the peculiar doctrines of their own party as the truths of God, in opposition to the peculiar doctrines of those who differ from them. It is needless to specify particulars. We have all been to blame. Instead of turning our zeal against the immoralities of the age, we have frequently turned it against men, who, in every moral and religious point of view, were, perhaps, better than ourselves. A spirit of infallibility, in a greater or less degree, pervades all parties. In this unchristian strife, the pure spirit of the Gospel has been banished from the great bodies of professors
, and has taken up its abode among a few solitary individuals, dispersed through the several churches of Christendom. Men of discernment, seeing this to be the state of things through all denominations, are led to suppose that there is no truth among any of them. The fact, however, is directly the contrary. They have all gotten the saving truth, if they hold it but in piety, charity, and righteousness. They all believe in the Saviour of the world. Let them only observe the moral and religious precepts of his Gospel, and I do not see what more is necessary to entitle them to our Christian regards. They may not come up to the full orthodox belief of the Gospel; but they are such characters as our SAVIOUR
It is computed that fifty thousand persons were contained in these several religious houses.
In some respects these religious institutions were useful, in others extremely pernicious.
Such a number of persons, living in a state of celibacy, when the country did not contain more than three or four millions of inhabitants, if so many, must have had a most pernicious effect upon its population.
The sum total of the clear yearly revenue of the several religious houses, at the time of their dissolurion, of which we have any account, seems to have been, 140,7851. 6s. 31d. And as the value of money is now seven or eight times what it was in the days of Henry the Eighth, we cannot reckon the whole at less than a million sterling a year.
Besides this, there were many other religious foundations dissolved, of which we have no account. The plate and goods of different kinds, which came into the hands of the king, at the same time, were of immense value.
A good general view of all these matters may be seen in an extract from Bishop TANNER’s Notitia Monastica, in Mr, Justice Burn's Ecck. siastical Law, under the article Monastries,
himself would not have treated with severity. And till religion is reduced to the simple form in which he left it, there never will be an end to the bickerings and uncharitableness of party, and Infidelity will of course prevail.
The general wickedness and immoral conduct, of Christians, so called, is another grand cause of Infidelity. For let men profess what they will, they never can persuade any thinking person they believe their own principles, while they are seen to transgress every rule of moral and religious obligation, and, in various of their transactions between man and man, conducting themselves in a manner of which abundance of the Heathen, both ancient and modern, would be ashamed.
All these circumstances, with others of a similar kind, are the causes why so many persons are now found, who reject the divine mission of Jesus CHRIST*.
But, MY COUNTRYMEN, can we justly argue from the abuse to the disuse? Is Jesus the most moral and divine of characters, an impostor, because many of his ministers and servants have proved unfaithful and treacherous? Were the other eleven Apostles all knaves and rascals, because JUDAS was a traitor ? Are the eternal truths of the Gospel to be exploded, because men have been
presumptuous enough to adulterate them with the profane mixtures of human ordinances t? Or doth our obstinacy alter the nature of evidence, and render the situation of Unbelievers more secure? The course of things is fixed and unchangeable. The sun will shine, fire will burn, water will drown, the wind will blow, time H 2
* Sir Isaac Newton is reported to have said, that Infidelity will overrun Europe, before the millennial reign of Christ commences. The corruptions of religion in all the Christian establishments cannot easily be purged away in any other manner. They must be subverted by violence and blood. There is too much reason to fear it will be impossible to remove them in any other way. See Whiston's Essay on the Revelation of St. John, p. 321, edit. 1744. Dr. Hartley also seems to have been of the same opinion respecting the spread of Infidelity as Sir ISAAC, in his Observations on Man, Part ii. Sect. 81.
+! Who that ever really professed the Cbristian religion, from the times of the Apostles to the present moment, ever considered it as a human establishment, the work of particular men or nations, subject to decline with their changes, or to perish with their falls ?”
ERSKINE, P. 56.
will fly, the tides will flow, maugre all the septicism of Philosophers.
The moral relations of things are not less invariable; and our being inconsiderate enough to deny those relations, and the obligations that arise from them, will neither destroy them, nor render our situation more secure. My being so foolislı as to reject the existence of God, and so infatuated as to suppose there is no REDEEMER, nó SANCTIFIER, no Hearon, no Hell, no Devil, no Soul, no Angel, no Spirit, and that the Bible is all a grievous imposition upon mankind, doth not prove, either that there is no God, or that there is no reality in the representations made by the Gospel*. Every man must allow, I think, that it is possible for the ALMIGHTY to reveal bis will to the world, if he thinks proper so to do. It will be further granted, I suppose, that some revelation seems desirable to allay the fears, and confirm the hopes of men. If then it ever should be made, what stronger evidence could be produeed of its coming from
God, * If the various opinions, sects and parties, which prevail among Christians are considered b; Unbelievers as an objection to the Gospel it. seif, let them call to mind, that there is not a smaller number of contradictory opinions prevalent among those who reject Christianity. This may be seen with strong conviction in STANLEY's History of Philosophy, and in the Posthumous Works of the late King of Prussia.-The author of the Connoisseur hath thrown together a few of the Unbeliever's tenets, under the contradictory title of
The Unbeliever's Creed. " I believe that there is no God, but that matter is God, and God " is matter ; and that it is no matter whether there is any God or no. " I believe also, that the world was not made ; that the world made “ itself; that it had no veginning ; that it will last for ever, world with.
“ Į believe that a man is a beast, that tlie soul is the body, and the « body is the soul; and that after death there is neither body nor soul.
“ I believe there is no religion; that natural religion is the only reli.
gion; and that all religion is unnatural. I believe not in Moses; " I believe in the first philosophy : I believe not the Evangelists ; I « believe in CHUBB, COLLINS, TOLÁND, TINDAL, MORGAN, MANDE
VILLE, Woolston, HOBBES, SHAFT ESEURY ; I believe in Lord “ BOLINGBROKE ; I believe noi St. Paul.
“ I hzlieve not revelation; I believe in tradition ; I believe in the “ Talmud; I believe in the Alcoran; I believe not the Bible; I believe “ in Socrates; I believe in ConfuciUS; I believe in. SANCONI.. " ATHAN; I believe in MAHOMET; I believe not in Christ.
"Lastly, I believe in all unbelief,"
God, than that with which the present Sacred Writings are attended? Tlie very errors of professors, and the corrupt state of religion in every Christian country, are the literai accomplishment of several prophecies, and, of course, so far are they from being any just objection to the Gospel, that they are a strong proof of the divine mission of its great Author.
But could it even be solidly evinced, that Jesus was an impostor, that the virgin MARY was a bad woman, that the Somptures are false, and that the scheme of redemption therein contained is all a cunningły decised fable of these arch-deceivers, the Priests, yet still it is found true in fact, that a lively Believer in Christ JESUS, who hath done justly, lored mercy, and wulked humbly with his Gon, is much happier than the most accomplished Infidel that ever existed, both in life, and at the approach of leath. Turn back your attention to that complete man of the world, Earl CHESTERFIELU: in him you see a finished character, all that rank, honour, riches, learning, philosophy can make us. But was he happy : Ruad his own account, and be confounded. And
you more at rest in your spirit? What is your life? -You eat, and drink, and sleep, and dress, and dance, and sit down to play. You walk, ride, or are carried abroad. You labour, toil, transact business. You attend the masquerade, the theatre, the opera, the park, the levee, the drawing-room, the card-table, the assembly, the ball, the club, the tavern.
In what manner do you spend your time at any of these places. Why sometimes you talk; make your observations; look one upon ano-ther; dance, play, trifle like the rest of the triflers there. Anxi what are you to do again to-morrow? The next day? The next week? The next year? You are to eat, and drink, and sleep, and labour, and dance, and transact business, and dress, and play, engage in smalltalk, walk, ride, and be carried abroad again*. And is
* The man of fashion is well described by a late poet in the following humorous manner:
" What'is a modern Man of Fashion
16 A busy
this all? Was it for this immortal faculties were bestowed upon us? Miserable round of secular pursuits, and empty dissipation! If faith in the Bible is a deception, it hath at least the merit of being a comfortable and beneficial one. It rescues us from this pitiful way of spending our time and money; it enables us to abound' in works of faith and labours of love; it excites us to live, in same degree, worthy of our high-raised expectations, and prepares us to die with a hope full of immortality. We quit the stage of life without a sigh or a tear, and we go wind and tide into the haven of everlasting rest*.
“ With us no melancholy void,
“ Or unimprov'd below;
“ And only hiin to know.” No man, however, can prove the falsehood of that inestimable Book. Difficulties, many and considerable, we
“ Taught by the Great his smiles to sell,
« And lives an ape, and dies a fool!" * Not many men ever trifled more agreeably, and at the same tinę more perniciously, than LAWRENCE STERNE, the author of Tristran Shandy. Among the various beautiful and pathetic passages which occur in his volumes, he administers poison in a manner the most imperceptible