« PrécédentContinuer »
leisure, improved understandings, and were used to abstract reasonings. But the instruction of the people were best still to be left to the precepts and principles of the gospel. The healing of the sick, the restoring sight to the blind by a word, the raising and being raised from the dead, are matters of fact, which they can without difficulty conceive; and that he who does such things must do them by the assistance of a diy power. These things lie level to the ordinariest apprehension : he that can distinguish between sick and well, lame and sound, dead and alive, is capable of this doctrine.... And here I appeal, whether this be not the surest, the safest, and most effectual way of teaching ; especially if we add this farther consideration, that as it suits the lowest capacities of reasonable creatures, so it reaches and satisfies, nay, enlightens the highest. The most elevated understandings cannot but submit to the authority of this doctrine as divine; which, coming from the mouths of a company of illiterate men, hath not only the attestation of miracles, but reason to confirm it; since they delivered no precepts but such as, though reason itself had not clearly made out, yet it could not but assent to, when thus discovered, and think itself indebted for the discovery. The credit and authority our Saviour and his apostles had over the minds of men, by the miracles they did, tempted them not to mix (as we find in that of
all the sects of the philosophers, and other religions) any conceits, any wrong rules, any thing tending to their own by-interest, or that of a party, in their morality: no tang of prepossession or fancy; no footsteps of pride or vanity; no touch of ostentation appears to have a hand in it. It is all pure, all sincere ; nothing too much, nothing wanting ; but such a complete rule of life, as the wisest men must acknowledge, tends directly to the good of mankind ; and that all would be happy, if all would practise it."
· I have already given a sketch of the Mahomedan faith in its different branches. It may not, however, be here improper to introduce a few remarks on its moral code, which, it must be allowed, contains some excellent precepts. Still it is undoubted, as has been already shown in the chapter allotted to Mohammedism, that it is indebted to Christianity, or to Judaism, or both, for whatever may constitute its value ; and that every thing adjected by Mohammed himself is greatly inferior to all that he has borrowed. Of this kind are polygamy and concubinage, which admit sensual indulgence to a degree equally prejudicial to the individual and to society. Of the same degraded complexion are that despotic spirit which this religion tends to
a Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity, as delivered in the Scriptures, vol. i. pp. 238-241. b Part ii. chap. iii.
foster, and that horrid intolerance which is so remarkably contrasted with the mild and forbearing genius of the gospel, and commands to extirpate, by fire and sword, all who dare to controvert the law of Mohammed ; a sure proof, as I have already shown, that this law originated not in heaven.
Lastly, it cannot be denied that the morality of Christ and his apostles is not only infinitely superior to that of the scribes and the Pharisees, which is censured and reprobated in the sermon on the mount, but even to that of the Mosaical law in its greatest purity. The Christian dispensation has exalted and refined every devotional sentiment, raises the soul from carnal to spiritual objects, softens and humanizes the heart, improves conduct, extends and invigorates that charity which should unite all mankind ; prohibits polygamy, and restrains divorce, of which the former was tolerated, and the latter too much indulged, under the Jewish law, in opposition to the original institution of marriage and the real interests of society. / On these and similar accounts, the prophet asserts that “God had given to the Jews statutes that were not (positively) good, and judgments whereby they should not live." Our Saviour also declares that “ Moses, because of the hardness of their hearts, suffered
a Ezek. xx. 25.
them to put away their wives ; but that from the beginning it was not so.” “ From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and they twain shall be one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder."
As far as relates to the motives of duty, every reflecting person must acknowledge, that those resulting from Christian views and considerations are infinitely more cogent than those proposed by the Jewish law, in respect whether of their effect on the best principles of the human mind, or of the magnitude and extent of the rewards or punishments. Christian motives are addressed to all the better feelings of our nature; and the rewards of duty which it promises, and the punishments which it threatens, affect our present and eternal happiness or misery.
For all these reasons, there cannot be the smallest doubt that the morality of Christ is, beyond all comparison, more solid, more comprehensive, more attractive, and more efficacious than any system of ethics eyer delivered to the world. It has replaced duty on its true foundations, unfolded its proper sources, and established, with regard to every branch of human obligation, rules the most salutary in their nature,
a Matt. xix. 8. Mark x. 6-9.
the most conformable to right reason, and the most conducive to the best interests of mankind. It injoins every species and description of virtue. It indulges and tolerates no kind or form of vice. It establishes an universal and invariable principle of rectitude. It purifies the very bottom of conscience, draws from it the last dregs of corruption, and suffers no vicious propensity to lurk in the heart. Elevated, but not austere ; mild, but not lax, it moulds the soul to the love of virtue, and inspires it with its true relish. While it humbles and corrects its natural pride, it guards against pusillanimity and meanness. It affords assistance to infirmity, yet precludes presumption. It instructs us in our real condition, and directs us to the end of our being. It completely satisfies the understanding, and strongly affects the heart. In a word, no instruction, flowing from a human source, ever exhibited such purity, such comprehension, such sublime results. Of all men, the Christian enjoys the most ample means of knowing his duty; is actuated by the most impressive motives in the discharge of it; is placed under the strongest obligations to lead a life of integrity; and is animated in its course by the prospect of the noblest rewards. If a person becomes not virtuous and holy under this discipline, his case must be desperate. The school of Christ is the most com