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were in a state of deplorable ignorance, as it respected God, and religion; were sunk into the grossest superstition and idolatry, and into the most dreadful corruption, and depravity of manners. The description of the ancient Pagans by St. Paul, in the first chapter of his epistle to the Romans, is strictly and literally true.
They were filled," saith the apostle, “with all unrighteousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; despiteful, proud, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful." And this, my brethren, is not the mere declamation of a pious man, against the wickedness of the times; but a faithful, and exact picture of the manners of the age; amply and fully confirmed by heathen writers, who flourished at the same time. Moreover, let it be observed, that this description of the apostle, is applied to a people highly civilized; celebrated for their proficiency in the arts and sciences; and extolled for their ingenuity and learning. What then must have been the depravity of barbarous nations, when such were the morals of the most polite and virtuous? There were, it is true, among the ancients, especially among the Greeks, and
Romans, some wise and comparatively good men, who had juster notions of morality, and religion, than the rest of the world; and who preserved themselves, to a certain degree, unpolluted by the general corruption of the times: but these philosophers were few, in proportion to the great bulk of mankind, and were utterly unable to produce any considerable change in the prevailing principles and manners of their countrymen. As it respected the nature, and attributes of God; the worship he requires; the duties, and obligations of morality; the method of God's governing the world; his design in creating mankind; the original dignity of human nature; the state of corruption, and depravity into which it afterwards fell; the means of regaining the favour of their maker; and the glorious end to which God intends finally to conduct the creatures he hath made; these were subjects on which the philosophers themselves had but the most imperfect, and erroneous ideas; and even what they did know, with any degree of clearness and certainty, they either would not condescend, or they wanted the ability to render plain, and intelligible to the
lower orders of the people. The philosophers were destitute, also of proper authority to enforce the virtues they recommended: they had no motives to propose powerful enough, to overrule strong temptations, and corrupt inclinations; and their example, in too many instances, instead of recommending their precepts, tended to counteract their doctrines, and to destroy the efficacy of what they taught. Above all, they were destitute of those awful sanctions of religion, the rewards and punishments of a future state, which form so essential and important a part of the Christian dispensation. There was, therefore, a plain, and absolute necessity for a divine revelation, to rescue mankind from that state of ignorance, superstition, iniquity, and idolatry into which they were almost universally sunk; to teach them, in what manner God might most acceptably be worshipped, and what expiation he would accept for sin; to give them a full assurance of a future state, and a future judgment; to make the whole doctrine of religion clear, and obvious to all capacities; to add weight, and authority to the plainest precepts; and to furnish men, with supernatu
ral assistance, to enable them to overcome the evil propensities of their nature.
And since it was thus worthy of God, and agreeable to all our ideas of his goodness, and mercy, that he should thus enlighten, and assist, and direct the creatures he had made; there was evidently much ground also to expect, that such information and assistance would be granted; and the wisest of the ancient heathen, as appears from their writings, thought it most natural, and agreeable to right reason to hope for something of this nature. "You may give over," saith Socrates, "all hopes of reforming men's manners, for the future, unless God be pleased to send you some other person to instruct you." And Plato declares, that "whatever is right, and as it should be, in the present evil state of the world; can be so only by the particular interposition of God." Cicero, also, has many similar declarations. And here let it be ob
served, that these confessions of the illustrious sages of antiquity, infinitely outweigh the assertions of our modern infidels, who affirm, that human reason is fully sufficient to teach man his duty, and to enable him to perform it; and that
therefore a divine revelation was needless.
is true, indeed, that in the present times a Deist, that is, one who denies revelation, may have tolerably just notions of the nature and attributes of the Supreme Being; of the worship due to him; of the ground and extent of moral obligation, and even of a future state of retribution. But from whence, my brethren, let it be asked, does he derive these notions? Not, it is clear, from the dictates of his own unassisted reason; but from those very scriptures which he despises and reviles; from the early impressions of education; from living and conversing in a Christian country, where those doctrines are publicly taught; and where he cannot avoid imbibing some portion of that religious knowledge, which the sacred writings have every where diffused, and communicated to the enemies, as well as to the friends of the Gospel. The philosophers, on the contrary, who were really destitute of these advantages; they, who had nothing but unassisted reason to direct them, and who therefore knew much better what reason is capable of doing, than any modern infidel among us, who never was, and