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IV

Religious Faith the safeguard and eonsolation of Man.

out understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful. Who, knowing the judgement of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

Now, the state of human depravity, of which we have here the affecting detail, existed in the full light and influence of philosophy. Philosophy attained its highest improvement and celebrity, at a much earlier period, and was now in full action upon the manners and hearts of men. The wisest, the most virtuous, and most approved of their philosophers flourished four centuries before; and the result of their discoveries, of their tenets, and precepts, among their posterity, was, the reign of wickedness and pollution, of which the Apostle has given us such a lively, but afflicting description. And this is not a state of society for which, I think, any one that hears me, or any person with a sane intellect, would take in exchange for our own.

Yet the deistical and unbelieving philosopher boasts of his tolerating spirit. If this

were

Religious Faith the safeguard and consolation of Man.

cause.

were granted' him, it would give little to his

But was toleration a striking feature in the character of the ancient governments, under the reign of heathen philosophy, and polytheism?

Do we not know that the greatest of all the Greek philosophers suffered the death, to which he was sentenced on a charge of infidelity to the idolatries and polytheism of his country? His innocence of the charge only shews the falsehood of his accusers, and the virulence of the intolerating superstition, by the laws of which he suffered. Neither this, nor the composure with which he submitted to his fate, adds any thing to the dignity of human reason. When he proved the injustice of the sentence, by which he suffered, he forfeited the honour of dying a martyr to truth. In the language of St. Paul, when he knew God, glorified him not as God. In the fortitude and serenity, with which he resigned his life; because the fortitude and serenity were not exhibited in attestation of the truth which shone upon his understanding, he debased his enlightened intellect, dishonoured

Religious Faith the safeguard and consolation of Man.

Him who gave it, and had shewn Himself to it; nexhibited a most humiliating picture of the futility of philosophy, and the incompetency of natural reason, however informed and instructed. How differently are we affected in beholding the persecution of Socrates in Greece, and of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, at Babylon?—the weakness of philosophy, and the strength of faith?

But even at Babylon, nearly two centuries before the time of Socrates, philosophy was not unknown. The learning and science of the Chaldeans have obtained a place in the records of fame: and, it is not unlikely that the study of the human mind, and of the divine being, prevailed among them to a degree, of which we have no testimony in the memorials that have reached us of that ancient people. The portion of history which we have been considering is an unquestionable document of their principle, and practice, with regard to toleration in religion.

Hence we come again to this sure conclusion that nothing but faith in God can subdue the human mind to practice and obey his law:

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Religious Faith the safeguard and consolation of Man.

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: nothing, but faith in the revelation of Christ, can enable us to discharge the duties, which that revelation commands. Now, the government, which has been hitherto our blessing, as our boast, being founded on this religion ; the virtues which alone can qualify us to live in quiet and happy subjection to this government, must spring from this religion. If we suffer our religion, upon which our laws are founded, to be taken away, or corrupted; the whole superstructure must fall : if we perish in the ruins, we shall only meet the fate we deserve, and which, indeed, contemplating the general course of God's providence we may expect. When Moses gave the law to the Israelites, he threatened the punishment of their apostacy from God. The Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and you shall be left few in number among the heathen ; · and there ye shall serve Gods, the work of men's hands, wood, and stone; there you shall have the fruits of your apostacy: there you shall have full scope to your idolatrous mind: there you shall worship these vain Gods to your hearts desire; for torments and

persecutions their I

Religious Faith the safeguard and consolation of Man.

eutions shall await your adoration of the true God, whom you will have forsaken. How remarkably was this prophetic denunciation fulfilled, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, by the fiery trial of their faith, declared the true God to the Heathen that ruled over them? Need I refer to the concluding calamity of the Jews, the destruction of their city, and the dispersion of the people ?

Contemplating thus the threatened and executed vengeance of the Almighty, upon the people, whom he would have taken to his bosom, can we forbear to ask ourselves whether we stand fast in our faith? whether we may not have provoked his displeasure, so that He may permit the religion and laws of our fathers to be taken from us? Shall we not consider seriously what has been the spring and nourishment of the infidelity and disaffection, that seem to be so extending among us ? May we not trace the evil to our own direliction of duty ? If the lower orders have not been invited to the worship of their Maker; if there have not been even places of worship to receive them; if they have never been admonished of

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