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point of this two-edged sword, and are not disposed to renew the encounter. That this is the case not only with nominal Christians, but with a great number of professed Deists, is manifest from the acknowledgments of such men as the Earl of Rochester, and many others who have relented on the near approach of death. This is often a time in which conscience must and will be heard; and, too often for the happiness of surviving acquaintances, it proclaims to the world, that the grand source of their hatred to the Bible has been that for which Ahab hated Micaiab-its prophesying no good concerning them.
The scriptures are a mirror in which we see not only individual characters, our own and others, but the state of things as they move on in the great world. They show us the spring head, whence all the malignant streams of idolatry, atheism, corruption, persecution, war, and of every other evil originate; and, by showing us the origin of these destructive maladies, clearly instruct us wherein must consist their cure.
It has already been observed,* that Christian morality is summed up in the love of God and our neighbour, and that these principles carried to their full extent, would render the world a paradise. But the scriptures teach us that man is a rebel against his Maker; that his carnal mind is enmity against God, and is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be; that, instead of loving God, or even man in the order which is required, men are become lovers of their own selves, and neither God nor man are regarded but as they are found necessary to subserve their wishes.
This single principle of human depravity, supposing it to be true, will fully account for all the moral disorders in the world; and the actual existence of those disorders, unless they can be better accounted for, must go to prove the truth of this principle, and by consequence, of the Christian system which rests upon it.
We are affected in considering the idolatry of so great a part of the human race; but we are not surprised at it. If men be destitute of the love of God, it is natural to suppose they will endeavour to banish him from their thoughts, and, provided the state of
*Part. I Chap. III.
society will admit of it, from their worship; substituting gods more congenial with their inclinations, and in the worship of which they can indulge themselves without fear or control.
Neither are we surprised at the practical atheism which abounds among unbelievers, and even among nominal Christians, in European nations. If the state of things be such as to render gross idolatry, inadmissible, still, if aversion to God predominate, it will show itself in a neglect of all worship, and of all serious conversation, or devout exercises; in a wish to think there is no God, and no hereafter; and in endeavours to banish every thing of a religious nature from society. Or, if this cannot be, and any thing relating to such subjects become matter of discussion, they will be so explained away as that nothing shall be left which can approve itself to an upright heart. The holiness of the divine character will be kept out of sight, his precepts disregarded, and morality itself made to consist in something destitue of all true virtue.
We are not surprised at the corruptions which Christianity has undergone. Christianity itself, as we have already seen, foretold it; and the doctrine of human depravity fully accounts for it. When the Christian religion was adopted by the state, it is natural to suppose there were great numbers of unprincipled men who professed it; and where its leading characters in any age are of this description, it will certainly be corrupted. The pure doctrine of Christ is given up in favour of some flesh pleasing system, the holy precepts of Christian morality are lowered to the standard of ordinary practice, and the worship and ordinances of Christ are mingled with superstition and modelled to a worldly temper. It was thus that Judaism was corrupted by the old Pharisees, and Christianity by the Papal hierarchy.
The success with which evil men and seducers meet in propaga ting false doctrine, is no more than, from the present state of things may be expected. So long as a large proportion of the professors of Christianity receive not the love of the truth, error will be certain to meet with a welcome reception. The grossest impostor has only to advance a system suited to corrupt nature, to
assert it with effrontery, and to flatter his adherents with being the favourites of heaven, and he will be followed.*
The persecutions which have been carried on against religion are grievous to humanity, and equally repugnant to justice and to good policy: but they are not in the least surprising. There was not a truth more prominent in our Saviour's addresses to his followers than this, that, having received his word, the world would hate them; because they were not of the world, as he was not of the world. When he sent them forth to preach the gospel, it was as sheep among wolves; and they were treated accordingly. When he took leave of them, previously to his death, he left them his peace, as knowing that, in the world, they should have tribulation. All this was no more than might be expected; for if it be the character of true religion that it sets itself against every vicious propensity of the human heart, it is natural to suppose that every one who is under the dominion of such propensity will feel averse from true religion, and from those who adhere to it. The manner in which mankind have stood affected towards godly men has been nearly uniform from the beginning. Cain slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, mocking: as he that was born after the flesh then persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Why was Jerusalem a burdensome stone to the nations? Why were they continually forming leagues to root out its remembrance from the
* Men are much more easily deceived in these matters than in the ordinary concerns of life. If a London Merchant were to open warehouses in different parts of the city, and make it his business to traduce the characters and commodities of all other merchants; if his opposition were directed especially against men of probity and eminence, whose situations were contiguous to his own; in fine, if the only traders in the kingdom who could obtain his good word were certain agents whom he had stationed in different parts of the country for the purpose of retailing his wares; would not his designs be evident? He might puff, and pretend to have the good of the public much at heart; but the public would despise him, as a man whose object was a for. tune, and whose practices evinced that he would hesitate at no means to accomplish his end. Yet, in religion, such deceptions may be practised with
earth? The same spirit that was discovered by Edom, Moab, and the children of Ammon towards Israel, was apparent in Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and their companions, towards Judah; and the part acted of the Horonite, the Ammonite, and the Arabian, was afterwards re-acted, with additional zeal, by Herod and Pontius Pilate, and the governors and people of Israel. Those who could agree in nothing else could agree in this. The persecutions of pagan and papal Rome, and of all who have symbolized with her, have been only a continuation of the same system: and the descriptions which deistical historians give of these works of darkness, notwithstanding their pretended regard to religious liberty, bear witness that they allow the deeds of their fathers, and inherit their dispositions. The same malignant spirit which was discovered by the heathens toward the ancient Israelites, is discoverable in all the writings of unbelievers toward that people to this day. It is true, they are more reconciled to the modern Jews; and for a very plain reason: they feel them to be near akin to themselves. Herod and Pilate were made friends by the crucifixion of Christ. Since that time, the old enmity has been transferred to believing Gentiles, who, being grafted into the Jewish olive, and partaking of its advantages, partake also of its persecutions: and by how much the Christian church, at any period, has exceeded the Jewish in purity and spirituality, by so much more fierce has the wrath of a wicked world burned against it.
After all the pains that unbelievers take to shift the charge of persecution, and lay it at the door of Christianity, it is manifest, to an observant eye, that there is a deep-rooted enmity in all wicked men, whether they be Pagans, Papists, Protestants, or Deists, towards all godly men, of every nation, name, and denomination. This enmity, it is true, is not suffered to operate according to its native tendency. He who holdeth the winds in his hands, restrains it. Men are withheld by laws, by policy, by interests, by education, by respect, by regard founded on qualities distinct from religious, and by various other things. There are certain conjunctions of interests, especially, which occasionally require a temporary cessation of hostilities; and it may seem on such occasions as if wicked men were ashamed of their animosities, and were all on a sudden
become friendly to the followers of Christ. Thus, at the revolution in 1688, those who for more than twenty years had treated the non-conformists with unrelenting severity, when they found themselves in danger of being deprived of their places by a popish prince, courted their friendship, and promised not to persecute them any more. And thus, at the commencement of the French revolution, Deists, Catholics, and Protestants, who were engaged in one political cause, seemed to have forgotten their resentments, all amicably uniting together in the opening of a place for protestant worship. But let not the servants of Christ imagine that any temporary conjunction of interests will extinguish the ancient enmity. It may seem to be so for a time; and all things being under the control of providence, such a time may be designed as a season of respite for the faithful; but when self-interest has gained its end, if other worldly considerations do not interpose, things will return to their former channel. The enmity is not dead, but sleepeth.
Finally: the wars which, from the earliest period of history, have desolated the earth, grievous as they are to a feeling mind, contain in them nothing surprising. The scriptures, with singular propriety, describe the world as a great sea, which is ever casting up its mire and dirt; and great conquerors as so many wild beasts, which, in succession, rise from its troubled waters, and devour the inhabitants of the earth.* Nor is this all: they describe not only the fact, but the cause of it. Wars among men, as has been already stated,† have their immediate causes in the lusts which war in their members: but, besides this, the scripture leads us to a cause more remote, and of still greater importance. They denominate the sword of war, the sword of the Lord, and constantly intimate that it is one of those means by which he pleadeth with all flesh. A part of the curse entailed on men for their departure from the living God, consists in this, that, till they return to him, they shall not be able for any length of time, to maintain amity among themselves. It appears to be one of those laws by which God governs the world, that, PEOPLE ENGAGED IN AN EVIL CAUSE, HOWEVER
* Dan. vii.
+ Part I. Chap. VII.