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by that divine Spirit, whofe dictates they profeffed to declare to the children of men.
In the next place, when we direct our attention to those doctrines which the light of nature could but darkly difcern, and never certainly demonftrate, we find that Christianity has decided them exactly in that manner which reafon admits to be most probable, and which most directly promotes the interest of virtue and the happiness of fociety. The certainty of a future state-of judgment and retribution in the next period of our existence of pardon on repentance-of affiftance from God in our efforts to im prove the obligation and utility of prayer-the superintendance of divine Providence over all events, whether public or private, minute or important. Thefe doctrines of Christianity are fuch as the best men have ever wifhed to find true, though the wisest were never able to demonftrate, Nor is it merely the doctrines themselves, the manner in which they are proposed and established increases the proba bility that the first preachers of the gofpel were far removed from the extravagance and weaknefs of fanaticism; they are propofed with great plainnefs and fimplicity; they are established, not merely by pofitive affertions, nor yet by fubtle and intricate reasonings, but by plain facts, proving at once the divine authority of the gospel in general, and the particular certainty of the refurrection from the dead-that
great decifive fact fo effential to all our hopes of life and immortality.
If we confider further, that Christianity exhibits this infinitely important fcheme of doctrines, undebased by those puerile abfurdities and wild extravagancies which are perpetually blended with all fanatical fyftems, our readiness to admit their divine original ought furely to be confiderably encreased.
Let it then be remembered, that the Christian revelation paffes by in filence, or expreffes in general and guarded terms, many points which enthusiasts are apt to dwell on with peculiar complacency, and to dress up with a train of fictitious circumstances which a ready invention fupplies, or a heated and deluded imagination mistakes for realities. Examine with this view the accounts which the New Teftament gives us of a future state, and how totally unlike is it to the wild vifions of fanaticism. are told that good men fhall rife with bodies " glo"rified and incorruptible." We are taught that the nature of the happiness to be enjoyed in another life, cannot be distinctly apprehended by our prefent faculties. "Eye hath not feen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what God "hath prepared for them that love him." It is declared that men will be rewarded in the next life, according to the ufe which they make of the talents
* talents with which they are entrusted in this; that those who are here active and faithful, will hereafter be employed in more important trusts, and more extenfive activity. We are led to believe that much of our happiness will confift in an encreased knowledge of God, and of his works; in being "made" like "unto him in purity and benevolence;" in enjoying the fociety of higher spirits, and "juft men made "perfect." We are affured, that those who drop into the grave with minds funk in the fordid and base pursuits of this world, and polluted with unrepented crimes, fhall not enter into the kingdom of God. Thus every thing neceffary to encourage virtue and religion is disclosed, without the intermixture of a fingle circumstance which could inflame spiritual pride, indulge fenfual defire, or gratify idle curiofity; we meet with no minute description of the pleafures, the employments, the glories of that future ftate, which might, perhaps if strongly impressed upon our imagination, draw us off from the neceffary business, or make us loath the innocent pleasures of the prefent life. We are taught " that it is ap"pointed to all men once to die, and after that the judgment;" but of the intermediate state of those
Vid. the parable of the talents, Mat. xxv.
1 John iii. 2 & 3.
1 Cor. vi. 9, 10.
Vid. alfo Mat. xiii. 41–49.
y Heb. ix. 27. Vid. also the entire 25th chapter of Mathew. Vid. alfo Bishop Law on the nature and end of death in the Christian covenant, annexed to his theory of religion, with the appendix.
who fleep in death, as we need only know that our state of trial terminates with this life, and "that in the
grave no man can work," so this only is pofitive ly and distinctly told: thus alfo the existence of superior orders of intelligences is afferted, but their dif tinctions and offices, their powers and employments, as they concern not us, no attempt is made to difclose them.
It deferves to be noticed, that if the writers of the Gofpels, Acts and Epiftles, had been fubject to the dominion of a heated imagination, and been misled by the delufive vifions of fanaticifm, many facts occurred in the course of the history they relate, which would have naturally led them to indulge in imaginary excurfions into the fpiritual world, and to gratify their own vanity, as well as catch their readers attention by pretending to describe the particulars of that scene so interefting to human curiosity. They fometimes relate appearances of angels; fometimes they mention vifions by which they were inftructed in fome important point of doctrine, or directed to fome particular mode of conduct; efpecially many inftances occur of individuals, well known to themselves, who had risen from the dead; and above all, the leading fact on which their relation turns, is the refurrection of their Lord, who they affert for forty days after was feen of them, and spoke
z Acts i. 3.
"of the things which belong to the kingdom of God" Now did it not require more than ordinary fobriety of mind, as well as the strictest attention to truth, never to be feduced by fuch alluring opportunities to confecrate the fictions of art, or the delufions of imagination, as the dictates of heaven, and never once to break that filence they obferved on all points, in which, however ardently men may defire information, it is not neceffary they should obtain it.
Thus, whether we confider the importance of the doctrines which Christianity has advanced on the subject of our present relation to the Deity, and our future expectations from him, the clear dignified and convincing mode in which they are established, or the omiffion of all thofe topics, which either deceivers or fanatics would naturally have descanted on with particularity and eagernefs, in every one of those views we perceive, that integrity and fobriety of mind which distinguished the first teachers of our faith; and in every one we discover ftrong marks of genuine in