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by the help of their coadjutors the infidels, have often seemed to labour at proving that Christianity is useless or needless,) launch out in commendation of the virtuous Hindoos, Chinese, or inhabitants of the South-sea islands : yet it is undeniable that the more these have been known, the fuller has been the proof that they are exceedingly prone to vices of every kind ; as well as given up to idolatry or sunk in total ignorance concerning God and religion. So that it would not be very difficult to shew, from respectable testimony, that, with variations arising from external circumstances, the character drawn by the apostles of the ancient heathen is realized, as to all its grand outlines, in that of modern pagans. And even the Mohammedans are not far, if at all, behind them : for, though they do not presentto our view altars reeking with human sacrifices, (vast numbers of which are still offered in divers parts of the world, or with the grosser abominations of idolatry; yet the excessive licentiousness indulged by them, even on the principles of their detestable religion, in imitation of their debauched prophet, and in expectation of more refined sensuality in their promised paradise, are scarcely less shocking to the serious mind; especially as connected with the principle that this paradise is secured to those who die, in battle, attempting, by blood and slaughter, to propagate these licentious tenets !
On what ground then can a Christian conclude that men thus universally sunk in idolatry or the basest superstition, and in all kinds of vice and immorality, till they have almost obliterated the very sense of right and wrong, can be entitled to
the reward of everlasting happiness, or meet for the enjoyment of its holy delights, without, “re“ pentance towards God and faith in our Lord “ Jesus Christ ?" Certainly neither the promises of a Saviour, nor the covenant made with him as Mediator, nor his instructions to his apostles, nor their manner of executing, their commission, nor their language concerning the Gentiles, give the smallest countenance to such a sentiment: but they always spake and acted as if conversion to God by Jesus Christ was absolutely necessary in order that any of the human race might be saved. And, as “it is appointed to men once to die, but “ after death the judgment,” at which solemn season all that do not go into eternal life, must go away into everlasting punishment; and “they “ who sin without law will perish without law;" we can allow nothing further, than that it will be far “more tolerable in the day of judgment" for ignorant heathens than for ungodly professors of Christianity. The scripture is decisive on the subject, however its determination may now be opposed under the pretence of candour and charity.
But it may be objected that Christians in general are as wicked as the Gentiles, or not much better : and we should answer this objection with tears and heartfelt grief! “Wo be to the world because of “offences ! It must needs be that offences come, “but.wo be to that man by whom they come !” It is however unreasonable to suppose that Christianity will change those who neither believe its doctrines, nor attend on its ordinances, nor obey its precepts; even as unreasonable as to expect that a medicine should cure those who refuse to take it. And it is still more absurd to charge on Christianity the blame of all those abominations which Antichrist has perpetrated, in express contradiction to the commands of Christ, but according to what was clearly foretold by his apostles as a vile perversion of his holy religion : even as absurd is this as to find fault with an excellent medicine because a vile murderer had substituted a fatal poison in its stead!
Yet, after all, Christianity has done immense good to society, even among those who are not true Christians. Christianity, by subverting the system of gross idolatry, has terminated a variety of cruel and inhuman practices, and detestable debaucheries, which it sanctioned and protected. Far juster notions, not only of God and religion, but also concerning what is laudable or the contrary in the actions of men, have grown almost imperceptibly from the influence of Christianity. It has fixed a vastly higher standard of morals, not only in the books of the learned, but in the general sentiments of mankind. It has driven into secret recesses such crimes as before stalked abroad without shame. It has mitigated the horrors even of war; and removed savage cruelty, at least, from public diversions. It has given a consequence to the lower ranks in society, and to the female sex, to which they before were strangers. It has endowed hospitals, and multiplied public charities; and given men in general a far deeper sense of their obligation to relieve distress than they had before, or now have in heathen countries : and, if it still fail of abolishing the slave trade, it has entered such a protest against the abominable traffic as all the annals of paganism cannot equal : and in many other ways it has vastly meliorated the state of the world.
But, where its truths are indeed believed, and its precepts obeyed, far more important and beneficial effects follow. Even in this land, while we must mourn over prevailing abominations, we cannot but be confident that there are tens of thousands who truly repent of all their sins, and“ do “works meet for repentance;”. who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and are “ constrained by love “ to live no longer to themselves, but to him who “ died for them and rose again;" who, after his example, and in obedience to his command, “walk “in love," “by love serve one another," and so love even their enemies as to persevere in attempting “ to overcome evil with good ;” in short, who are " taught by the grace of God, which bringeth “salvation, to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, "and to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this “present world, looking for that blessed hope, and “the glorious appearing of the great God and our “ Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, “ to redeem us from all iniquity, and to purify unto “ himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” These are accepted in Christ, and “made meet" for the inheritance of heaven: and they are bright examples, “shining as lights in the world,” who, by their influence, endeavours, converse, and prayers, check the progress of vice and impiety, and communicate, as “the salt of the earth,” the savour of truth and holiness around them.
But where do we read, in the account of nations strangers to Christianity, ancient or modern, of characters unequivocally answering to this remnant found in Christian countries!' And what would be the consequence if this genuine Christianity should universally prevail in any nation, and all men should live as this remnant does; who yet are consciously' very far from having attained even that measure of holiness to which divine grace has raised numbers of their fellow sinners? and what would be the effect of the gospel being thus believed and obeyed all over the earth, but universal piety, humility, justice, temperance, peace, and love? Wars, oppressions, frauds, slavery, licentiousness, and every species of violence and immorality, must cease of course : if the change were effected suddenly, it would still the madness of this turbulent world as entirely as the Saviour's powerful words, “ Peace, be still," silenced the stormy winds, and calmed the tempestous billows: and, whenever or by whatever means it shall take place, a state of felicity on earth, not much unlike that of heaven, will be the necessary consequence. For this we are taught by our Lord to pray ever in the first place; “Hallowed be thy name: thy kingdom “come: thy will be done in éarth as it is in hea- ven :” and surely, if we would not have our prayers condemned as hypocrisy, we should endeavour to promote this kingdom of our God and Saviour by all the means in our power.
Contrast then, my Christian brethren, the state of the world, as it has hitherto been, especially in heathen countries, with what it would be did our holy religion every where prevail ; and, while your hearts glow with gratitude for the peculiar blessings which you enjoy, and with fervent desires that