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only permitted, but commanded, to pray to him, and address him as our FATHER:—we are taught, moreover, that the evils incident to this state of trial are permitted by him, in order to exercise our virtue, and so prepare us for a future state of never-ending felicity; and that these momentary afflictions are pledges of his paternal love, and shall, if we receive them as such, and venerate them accordingly, work out for us an exceeding great and eternal weight of glory. If these hopes and these sentiments contribute more to our happiness, and to the purification of our nature, than any thing else in the world can do, surely that religion, to which alone we owe these sentiments and hopes, must be the greatest blessing that ever was conferred on the posterity of Adam.
And is it, after all, but a mere human contrivance; the invention of mean and illiterate men, who lived, and who died, in the voluntary promulgation of falsehood? To what other human artifice does this bear any resemblance? Does not this religion as plainly prove itself to be the work of a wise and gracious God, as the absurdity of the pagan superstitions proves them to have been the work of weak and wretched men ?
THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST A DOCTRINE OF TRUTH
AND SIMPLICITY. The gospel of Christ, as taught by himself and his apostles, in its original plainness and purity, is a doctrine of truth and simplicity, a doctrine so easy to be understood, so reasonable to be
practised, so agreeable to the natural notions and reason of mankind, so beneficial in its effects, if men were really governed by it; teaching them nothing but the worship of the true God, through the mediation of Christ; and towards each other, justice, righteousness, meekness, charity, and universal good will; in expectation of a future judgment, and of a lasting state of happiness in a better world, for them who love God and keep his commandments; this doctrine of Christ, Í say, in its native simplicity and purity, is so reasonable, so excellent, and of such irresistible evidence, that had it never been corrupted by superstitions from within, it never could have been opposed by power from without; but it must of necessity have captivated mankind to the obedience of faith; until the knowledge of the Lord had filled the earth, as the waters cover the sea.
Whatever difficulties there may be in some of the historical, or prophetical, or controversial parts of the books of Scripture, yet as to the practical part, the duties required of a Christian in order to salvation, there is no man that ever read the sermons of Christ and his apostles, or ever heard them read, but understood perfectly well what our Saviour meant by commanding us to worship the one true God of nature, the Author and Lord of the universe, and to do to allmen as we would they should do to us; and that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world;' in expectation of being righteously and impartially adjudged, according to our works, to
a state of happiness or misery in the world to come, by our Saviour himself, our merciful and compassionate judge. There never was any man in the Christian world, but felt the reasonableness and importance of this doctrine; and, whenever these things have been repeated to him, was immediately conscious to himself, either of having followed or transgressed these precepts.
THE SIMPLICITY OF THE GOSPEL GIVES IT AN AIR
OF SUBLIMITY. The graceful negligence of nature always pleases beyond the truest ornaments that art can devise. Indeed, they are then truest, when they approach the nearest to this negligence. To attain it, is the very triumph of art. The wise artist, therefore, always completes his studies in the great school of creation, where the forms of elegance lie scattered in an endless variety; and the writer who wishes to possess some portion of that sovereign excellence, simplicity, even though he were an infidel, would have recourse to the Scriptures, and make them his model.
The pathetic and sublime simplicity of our Saviour's whole description of the last judgment cannot be paralleled in any writing of any age.
In the Gospel we find no pompous displays of reasoning; no laboured and difficult distinctions; no long and learned inquiries concerning the nature and kinds of virtue; but virtue itself represented to the life; in examples, and precepts, which are level to the plainest understandjugs; in familiar occurrences; in short and simple narrations; in actions, or discourses, real or imagined. And perhaps, among other things, it is this unsystematic form, this neglect of art and method, which produces that graceful ease, that venerable, majestic simplicity, that air of truth and originality, which distinguish the Scriptures from all human writings.
Rev. J. Mainwaring.
THE SPOTLESS CHARACTER OF CHRIST, A PROOF
OF HIS COMING FROM GOD. BESIDES that God gave testimony from Heaven concerning Jesus, he also gave this testimony of himself to have come from God, because that 'he did God's will; for he that is a good man and lives, by the laws of God and of his nation, a life innocent and simple, prudent and wise, holy and spotless, unreproved and unsuspected, he is certainly by all wise men said in a good sense to be the son of God; but he who does well and speaks well, and calls all men to glorify and serve God, and serves no ends but of holiness and charity, of wisdom of hearts and reformation of manners, this man carries great authority in his sayings, and ought to prevail with good men in good things, for good ends, which is all that is here required.
But his nature was so sweet, his manners so humble, his words so wise and composed, his comportment so grave and winning, his answers so reasonable, his questions so deep, his reproof
so severe and charitable, his pity so great and merciful, his preachings so full of reason and holiness, of weight and authority, his conversation so useful and beneficent, his poverty great but his alms frequent, his family so holy and religious, his and their employment so profitable, his meekness so incomparable, his passions without difference, save only where zeal or pity carried him on to worthy and apt expressions; a person that never laughed, but often wept in a sense of the calamities of others : he loved every man and hated no man; he gave counsel to the doubtful, and instructed the ignorant; he bound up the broken hearts, and stengthened the feeble knees; he relieved the poor, and converted the sinners ; he despised none that came to him for relief, and as for those that did not, he went to them; he took all occasions of mercy that were offered him, and went abroad for more; he spent his days in preaching and healing, and his nights in prayers and conversation with God: he was obedient to laws and subject to princes, though he was the prince of Judea in right of his mother, and of all the world in right of his father; the people followed him, but he made no-conventions, and when they were made, he suffered no tumults; when they would have made him a king, he withdrew himself; when he knew they would put him to death, he offered himself; he knew men's hearts, and conversed secretly, and gave answer to their thoughts, and prevented their questions; he would work a miracle rather than give offence, and yet suffer every offence rather than see God his father