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by those reasonings which it suffices to have examined thoroughly once; the affections, by habit, which keeps them perpetually from wandering.
MARKS OF THE TRUE RELIGION.
TRUE religion should be marked by the obligation to love God. This is essentially right; and yet no religion but the Christian has ever enjoined it.
True religion ought also to recognize the depraved appetite of man, and his utter inability to become virtuous by his own endeavours. It should have pointed out the proper remedies for this evil, of which prayer is the principal. Our religion has done all this; and no other has ever taught to ask of God the power to love and serve him.
2. Another feature of true religion, would be the knowledge of our nature. For the true knowledge of our nature, of its true happiness, of true virtue, and true religion, are things essentially united. It should also recognize both the greatness and the meanness of man; together with their respective causes. What religion, but the Christian, has ever exhibited knowledge such as this ?
3. Other religions, as the pagan idolatries, are more popular; their main force lies in external forms: but then they are ill suited to sensible men; whilst a religion, purely intellectual, would be more adapted to men of sense, but would not do for the multitude. Christianity alone adapts itself to all. It wisely blends outward forms, and inward feelings. It raises the common people to abstract thought; and, at the same time, abases the pride of the most intellectual, to the performance of outward duties; and it never complete, but in the union of these two results. For it is necessary that the people understand the spirit of the letter, and that the learned submit their spirit to the letter, in the compliance with external forms.
4. Even reason teaches us that we deserve to be hated : yet no religion, but the Christian, requires us to hate ourselves. No other religion, therefore, can be received by those who know themselves to be worthy of nothing but hatred.
No other religion, but the Christian, has admitted that man is the most excellent of all visible creatures, and, at the same time, the most miserable. Some religions which have rightly estimated man's real worth, have censured, as mean and ungrateful, the low opinion which men naturally entertain of their own condition. Others, well knowing the depth of his degradation, have exposed, as ridiculously vain, those notions of grandeur which are natural to men.
No other religion but ours has taught that man is born in sin: no sect of philosophers ever taught this; therefore no sect has ever spoken the truth.
5. God is evidently withdrawn from us, and every religion, therefore, which does not teach this, is false; and every religion which does not teach the reason of this, is wanting in the most important point of instruction. Our religion does both.
That religion, which consists in the belief of man's fall from a state of glory and communication with God, into a state of sorrow, humiliation, and alienation from God, and of his subsequent restoration by a Messiah, has always been in the world. All things else have passed away, but this, for which all other things exist, remains. For God, in his wisdom, designing to form to himself a holy people, whom he would separate from all other nations, deliver from their enemies, and lead to a place of rest, did promise that he would do this, and that he would come himself into the world to do it; and did foretel by his prophets, the very time and manner of his coming. In the mean while, to confirm the hope of his elect through all ages, he continually exhibited this aid to them in types and figures, and never left them without some evident assurances of his power and willingness to
For immediately after the creation, Adam was made the witness to this truth, and the depository of the promise of a Saviour, to be born of the seed of the woman. And though men at a period so near to their creation, could not have altogether forgotten their origin, their fall, and the divine promise of a Redeemer; yet since the world in its very infancy was overrun with every kind of corruption and violence, God was pleased to raise up holy men, as Enoch, Lamech, and others, who, with faith and patience, waited for that Saviour who had been promised from the beginning of the world. At the last, God sent Noah, who was permitted to experience the malignant wickedness of man in its highest degree; and then God saved him, when he drowned the whole world, by a miracle, which testified, at once, the power of God to save the world, and his willingness to do it, and to raise up to the woman the seed which He had promised This miracle, then, sufficed to confirm the hopes of mankind : and while the memory of it was still fresh in their minds, God renewed his promises to Abraham, who dwelt in the midst of idolaters, and opened to him the mystery of the Messiah that was to come. In the days of Isaac and Jacob, the idolatrous abomination was spread over the whole earth ; yet these holy men lived in faith, and when Jacob, on his death-bed, blest his children, he exclaimed with an extatic joy, that interrupted his prophetic discourse, “ I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.”
The Egyptians were a people infected with idolatry and magic; and even the people of God were drawn aside by their example. Yet Moses and others were permitted to see him who was to them invisible, and they adored him, and had respect unto the eternal blessings which he was preparing for them.
The Greeks and Romans have bowed down to fictitious deities. The poets have invented different systems of theology. Philosophers have split into a thousand different sects; yet were there always in one small spot, and that the land of Judea, some chosen men who foretold the coming of that Messiah, whom no one else regarded.
At length, in the fulness of time, that Messiah came; and ever since, in the midst of heresies and schisms, the revolution of empires, and the perpetual change to which all other things are subject, the same church which adores him, who has never been without his chosen worshippers, still subsists without interruption or decay. And, what must be owned to be unparalleled, wonderful, and altogether Divine, this religion, which has ever continued, has subsisted in the face of perpetual opposition. A thousand times has it been on the very verge of total ruin; and as often as it has been so reduced, God has relieved it, by some extraordinary interposition of his power. This is a most wonderful feature of its history, that it should have been so maintained, and that too, even without any unconscientious submission or compromise to the will of tyrannical men.
6. Civil states would infallibly perish, if their laws did not yield sometimes to the controul of necessity. But religion has never submitted to this: yet one step or the other is necessary, either compliances or miracles. It is no wonder that the kingdoms of this world should try to save themselves by yielding to circumstances; but, in point of fact, this is not preservation. It is change. And yet with all these variations, still they utterly perish. There is not one state that has lasted for 1500 years. If, then, this religion has always continued somewhere in existence, and continued firm and inflexible, is it not divine ?
n. There would be too much obscurity over this question, if the truth had not some unequivocal marks. This is a valuable one, that it has always been preserved in a visible church. The proof would be too bright, if there were but one opinion in the Christian church. This, then, has not been the case; but in order to discover that which is truth, we have only to ascertain that which has always existed, for that which really is the truth, must have been there always, but that which is false, cannot.*
Now, the belief in the Messiah has been ever maintained in the world. The tradition from Adam was yet
* How completely this simple rule condemns all the Romish superstitions.