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difficult to foretell; at least we must speak of it as of a dispensation, of which we have no experience: Some consequences however would, it is probable, attend this economy, which do not seem to befit a revelation that proceeds from God. One is, that irresistible proof would restrain the voluntary powers too much ; would not answer the purpose of trial and probation ; would call for no exercise of candour, seriousness, humility, inquiry; no submission of passions, interests, and prejudices, to moral evidence and to probable truth; no habits of reflection; none of that previous desire to learn and to obey the will of God, which forms perhaps the test and merit of the virtuous prineiple, and which induces men to attend with care and reverence to every credible intimation of that will, and to resign present advantages and present pleasures to any reasonable expectation of propitiating his favour. 66 Men's moral probation may be, whether they will take due care to inform themselves by impartial consideration; and, afterwards, whether they will act as the case requires, upon the evidence which they have. And this, we find, by experience, is often our probation in our temporal capacity."*
Il. These modes of communication would leave no place for the admission of internal evidence ; which ought, perhaps, to bear a considerable part in the proof of every revelation, because it is a species of evidence which applies itself to the knowledge, love, and practice of virtue, and which operates in proportion to the degree of those qualities which it finds in the person whom it addresses. Men of good dispositions, amongst Christians, are greatly affected by the impression which the scriptures themselves make upon their minds. Their conviction is much strengthened by these impressions. And this perhaps was intended to be one effect to be produced by the religion. It is likewise true, to whatever cause we ascribe it; (for I am not in this work at liberty to introduce the Christian doctrine of grace or assistance, or the Christian promise, “ that if any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God"t) it is true, I say, that they who sincerely act, or sincerely endeavour to act, according to what they believe, that is, according to the just result of the probabilities, or, if you please, the possibilities in natural and revealed religion, which they themselves perceive, and according to a rational estimate of consequences, and, above • Builer's Analogy, part II. c. vi.
+ John vii. 17
all, according to the just effect of those principles of gratitude and devotion, which even the view of nature generates in a well ordered mind, seldom fail of proceeding farther. This also may have been exactly what was designed.
Whereas, may it not be said, that irresistible evidence would confound all characters, and all dispositions? would subvert rather than promote the true purpose of the divine counsels, which is not to produce obedience by a force little short of mechanical constraint, (which obedience would be regularity, not virtue, and would hardly perhaps differ from that which inanimate bodies pay to the laws impressed upon their nature) but to treat moral agents agreeably to what they are; which is done, when light and motives are of such kinds, and are imparted in such measures, that the influence of them depends upon the recipients themselves ? - It is not meet to govern rational free agents in viâ by sight and sense. It would be no trial or thanks to the most sensual wretch to forbear sinning, if heaven and hell were open to his sight. The spiritual vision and fruition is our state in patriâ.” (Baxter's Reasons, p. 357.) There may be truth in this thought, though roughly expressed. Few things are more improbable than that we (the human species) should be the highest order of beings in the universe ; that animated na. ture should ascend from the lowest reptile to us, and all at once stop there. If there be classes above us of rational intelligences, clearer manifestations may belong to them. This may be one of the distinctions; and it may be one to which we ourselves hereafter shall attain.
III. But thirdly; may it not also be asked, whether the perfect display of a future state of existence would be compatible with the activity of civil life, and with the success of human affairs ? I can easily conceive that this impression may be overdone ; that it may so seize and fill the thoughts, as to leave no place for the cares and offices of men's several stations, no anxiety for worldly prosperity, or even for a worldly provision, and, by consequence, no sufficient stimulus to secular industry. Of the first Christians we read, " that all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need: and, continuing daily, with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart."* This was extremely natural, and just what might be expected, from miraculous evidence coming with full force upon the senses of man. kind; but I much doubt, whether if this state of mind had been universal, or long continued, the business of the world could have gone on. The necessary arts of social life would have been little.cultivated. The plough and the loom would have stood still. Agriculture, manufactures, trade, and navigation, would not, I think, have flourished, if they could have been exercised at all. Men would have addicted themselves to contemplative and ascetic lives, instead of lives of business, and of useful industry. We observe that St. Paul found it necessary, frequently to recall his converts to the ordinary labours and domestic duties of their condition; and to give them, in his own example, a lesson of contented application to their worldly employments.
* Actsii. 44-46.
By the manner in which the religion is now proposed, a great portion of the human species is enabled, and of these, multitudes of every generation are induced, to seek and to effectuate their salvation through the medium of Christianity, without interruption of the prosperity or of the regular course of human affairs.
The supposed effects of Christianity. THAT a religion, which, under every form in which it is taught, holds forth the final reward of virtue, and punishment of vice, and proposes those distinctions of virtue and vice, which the wisest and most cultivated part of mankind confess to be just, should not be believed, is very possible ; but that, so far as it is believed, it should not produce any good, but rather a bad effect upon public happiness, is a proposition, which it requires very strong evidence to render credible. Yet many have been found to contend for this paradox, and very confident appeals have been made to history, and to observation, for the truth of it.
In the conclusions, however, which these writers draw, from wbat they call experience, two sources, I think, of mistake, may be perceived.
One is, that they look for the influence of religion in the wrong place:
The other, that they charge Christianity with many con sequences, for which it is not responsible.
1. The influence of religion is not to be sought for, in the councils of princes, in the debates or resolutions of popular assemblies, in the conduct of governments towards their subjects, or of states and sovereigns towards one another, of conquerors at the head of their armies, or of parties intriguing for power at home, (topics, which alone almost occupy the attention, and fill the pages of history) but must be perceived, if perceived at all, in the silent course of private and domestic life. Nay more; even there its influence may not be very obvious to observation. If it check is some degree, personal dissoluteness, if it beget a general prolity in the transaction of business, if it produce soft and humane manners in the mass of the community, and occa. sional:exertions of laborious or expensive benevolence in a few indivi luals, it is all the effect which can offer itself to external notice. The kingdom of heaven is within us. That which is the substance of the religion, its hopes and consortions, its intermixture with the thoughts
day and by night, the devotion of the heart, the control of appetite, the steady direction of the will to the commands of God, is necessarily invisible. Yet upon these depends the virtue and the happiness of millions. This cause renders the representations of history, with respect to religion, defective and fallacious, in a greater degree than they are upon any other subject. Religion operates most upon those of whom bistory kpows the least; upon fathers and mothers in their families, upon men-servants and maid-servants, upon the orderly tradesman, the quiet villager; the manufacturer at his loom, the husbandman in his fields. Amongst such its influence collectively may be of inestimable value, yet its effects in the meantime little, upon those who figure upon the stage of the world. They may know nothing of it; they may believe nothing of it; they may be actuated by motives more impetuous than those which religion is able to excite. It cannot, therefore, be thought strange, that this influence should elude the grasp and touch of public history; for what is public history, but a register of the successes and disappointments, the vices, the follies, and the quarrels, of those who engage in contentions for power?
I will add, that much of this influence may be felt in times of public distress, and little of it in times of public wealth and security. This also increases the uncertainty of
any opinions that we draw from historical representations. The influence of Christianity is commensurate
with no effects which history states. We do not pretend that it has any such necessary and irresistible power over the affairs of nations, as to surmount the force of other
The Christian religion also acts upon public usages and institutions, by an operation which is only secondary and indirect. Christianity is not a code of civil law. only reach public institutions through private character. Now its influence upon private character may be considerable, yet many public usages and institutions, repugnant to its principles may remain. To get rid of these, the reigning part of the community must act, and act together. But it may be long before the persons who compose this body, be sufficiently touched with the Christian character, to join in the suppression of practices to which they and the public have been reconciled by that which will reconcile the human mind to any thing, habit and interest. Nevertheless, the effects of Christianity, even in this view, have been important. It has mitigated the conduct of war, and the treatment of captives. It has softened the administration of despotic, or of nominally despotic governments. It has abolished polygamy. It has restrained the licentiousness of divorces. It has put an end to the exposure of children, and the immolation of slaves. It has suppressed the combats of gladiators,* and the impurities of religious rites. It has banished, if not unnatural vices, at least the toleration of them. It has greatly meliorated the condition of the laborious part, that is to say, of the mass of every community, by procuring for them a day of weekly rest.
In all countries in which, it is professed, it has produced numerous establishments for the relief of sick. ness and poverty; and, in some, a regular and general provision by law. It has triumphed over the şlavery estab. lished in the Roman Empire: it is contending, and I trust will one day prevail, against the worse slavery of the West-Indies.
A Christian writer,t so early as in the second century, has testified the resistance which Christianity made to wicked and licentious practices, though established by law and by public usage. " Neither in Parthia, do the Christians, though Parthians use polygamy; nor in Persia, though
Lipsius affirms, (Sat. B. I. 2. 12.) that the gladiatorical shows sometimes cost Europe twenty or thirty thousand lives in a month; and that not only the men, but even the women of all ranks were passionately fond of these shows. See Bishop Portou's Sermon XIII.
Bardesane's ap. Euseb. præp, evang. yi. 10.