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he may hope to get instruction. "For he that walketh with wise men shall be wise; but a companion of fools shall be destroyed." (Pr. xiii. 20.)
6. The Christian is diligent and faithful in attending to, and prosecuting the business of, his particular calling, in which he is fixed by divine Providence, in opposition to sloth, idleness, and misspense of time. He attends to his own proper calling and business, and pursues that with industry, prudence, and diligence, and is not a busy body in other men's matters; not an idle tattler and brawler, going from house to house, and spending his time in idle chat, which is of no advan tage to himself or to any one else, but the contrary; but abides in his own calling, steadily prosecuting his business, doing every thing in the proper time and season. He does not sit up late, when there is no particular and extraordinary call to it, which tends to injure his health, and unfit him for his proper business, or prevent his rising early to attend in the proper season on the duties of his calling. Thus he conscientiously and with care obeys the command, "Not to be slothful in his business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; abiding with diligence in the same calling wherein he is called." (Rom. xii. 11. 1 Cor. vii. 20.)
I. From the above brief sketch of Christian practice, and the character of a true Christian, it appears that Christianity is in the best manner suited to make those happy in this world and forever who cordially embrace and practise it, and to render society, whether public or more private, beautiful and happy.
So far as the true spirit and proper practice of Christianity take place, it delivers each subject of it from those passions and lusts which war against the soul, and contain evil and unhappiness, even in the indulgence of them; and it forms them to those views and exercises respecting the most grand and excellent objects, and that practice in which they enjoy peace of mind and conscience, and have the best and highest kind of enjoyment of which the human nature is capable, which never can cloy or cease, but is in the nature of it reasonable, pure, and permanent; and it forms the Christian to the highest and most excellent kind of social felicity. It constitutes the best, most perfect, and happy society that can be imagined, or that is possible. It spreads the most happy peace through the whole community, however large it may be, fixes every one in his proper place, and makes him useful to the
whole; and at the same time gives each individual the highest satisfaction and pleasure in being a member of such a society, composed of the most excellent friends to each other, and to him; and he, as a friend to every member of the society and to the whole, enjoys the good and happiness of the whole, to the extent of his capacity. Christianity forms society to the strongest, most permanent, and happy union, so far as the true spirit of it is imbibed and carried into practice. It binds them together by the strong, everlasting, and most perfect bond, charity, or Christian love.
And it must appear to all who properly use their reason, that piety, and the practice of it, is essential to the best good and greatest happiness of society and of individuals in this world. It is that love which unites men to God and the Redeemer, and forms them to all the acts of piety, and gives them the highest enjoyment, which at the same time unites them to each other, and forms them to all social duties and enjoyments. The latter cannot exist without the former. Where there is no piety, there may be a sort of union in society, and a degree of enjoyment, in imitation of Christian social virtues and duties; but it must be a low, mean thing, without any real benevolence, or proper, lasting foundation, and, therefore, not to be depended upon.
How greatly mistaken, then, are they, who do not consider the exercise and practice of piety as any part of social happiness, or in the least advantageous to it, and leave Christianity wholly out of their idea and scheme of public virtue and social happiness! It is impossible there should be any great degree of personal or public social happiness without Christian piety and morality, founded on Christian principles; and so far only as these take place, personal and public happiness is secured and promoted; and they must certainly have a low, debased, and corrupt taste for enjoyment and happiness, who think they can be more happy, both personally and in society, without real Christianity than with it, and are expecting and seeking it for themselves and the public, in opposition to Christian practice, and in disregard to the laws of Christ, and by an open violation of them. Their enjoyment, considered personally and by themselves, or in society, must be mean and low at best, and very unworthy of man, who is made capable of unspeakably higher and more noble happiness in his own mind, independent of others, or in society, in the exercise and practice of Christianity, and the social virtues and conduct which it prescribes.
It will be asked by some, whether all this be not confuted by fact and experience, since Christianity has not rendered
societies and kingdoms happy where it has been generally received and professed, and has been the means of the contrary, and produced contentions, cruel persecutions, and wars; and Christians have contended with Christians, and persecuted and destroyed each other.
ANSWER. That Christianity has had no better and no more happy effect where it has been in a sense received and professed, has not been owing to the nature and tendency of it, but to the abuse of it, and opposition to it, and a refusal cordially to receive it, and practise agreeably to the spirit and revealed laws of it. By this it has been perverted to very bad purposes, and made the occasion of great mischief and unhappiness among men. Any one may be certain of this, by attending to the Bible, and well observing what are the principles, rules, and practice there inculcated and prescribed; and what would be the certain effect, if they were cordially received and obeyed. We must consult the Bible if we would know what Christianity is; what are the truths there revealed, and what disposition, exercises, and practices it does recommend and enjoin. And in this way alone can we learn, and be able to judge of the nature and tendency of it, and see how far it has been abused and perverted by men. He who will attend to the Bible with impartiality, candor, and discerning, will be sure that whenever the truths and religion there revealed shall be properly received and reduced to practice by all the people, and Christianity shall have a genuine and complete effect, it will effectually banish all the evils which now take place in society among men, whether more private or public, by putting an end to all unrighteousness and oppression, unfaithfulness, and fraud, to all contention and war, pride, ambition, and selfishness, and to the indulgence of every lust, in word or conduct, which tends to evil, or to hurt any And on the contrary, it will introduce that uprightness and universal righteousness in practice, that benevolence and beneficence to all, every one taking his proper place, and doing the duties of it, so as to advance the good of the whole; which will spread universal peace, prosperity, and happiness through the whole society, nation, or kingdom; and that nothing can destroy or disturb the peace, good order, and happiness of society, but a deviation from the truths and duties inculcated in the Holy Scriptures.
The Scripture foretells the evils of which the gospel would be the occasion by the abuse of it, and the opposition which would be made to it, and the corruption and apostasy, both in doctrine and practice, which should take place among the professors of Christianity, which would be the occasion of
persecution and innumerable calamities; and these having actually taken place as they were predicted, is so far from being an objection to the truth and excellency of Christianity, that hereby is exhibited a standing evidence of its divine original, and may justly be considered as a pledge of the advantage and happiness which it shall produce in this world in the last days, when it shall have its proper effect on the hearts and lives of mankind, which is also foretold.
The salutary influence Christianity has had already in the world, forming men to be peaceable, harmless, and useful members of society, in the practice of righteousness and goodness, where the dictates of it have been in any measure properly regarded and obeyed, of which there have been many instances, is sufficient to convince every candid mind, that when it shall be no longer abused and perverted to evil purposes by men of perverse minds, but universally understood, embraced, and practised, it will render mankind and society unspeakably more happy than they have ever yet been or can be, while men are ignorant of it, or refuse to regard and obey its dictates. That there is such a happy era coming, is abundantly foretold in the divine oracles, when by the influence and power of the gospel, in the hand of the exalted Redeemer, he will reign universally in the hearts of men, and they shall obey him; and the happy effect of Christianity shall be seen in fact and experience, in extirpating all unrighteousness and violence from the earth, and introducing universal peace, love, and beneficence; when men shall learn war no more, but practise all the social virtues, each one in his proper sphere, honestly and wisely seeking and promoting the greatest public good, and the happiness of every individual, so far as he has ability and advantage.
But the most complete and happy effect of Christianity will take place, and appear in the fulness, importance, and glory of it, when the kingdom of Christ shall be brought to perfection in the future state; when the most beautiful, harmonious, and happy society will be formed by it, in the exercise of love to God and to one another, by which the most perfect union and the highest possible happiness shall exist forever. Here, then, we are to look, to see what is the nature and genuine tendency of Christianity, and what will be the happy effect of it to individuals and to society, when it has overcome all opposition, and shall reign in perfection in the heart and practice of every member of the kingdom of Christ.
II. From this view of Christian practice, and it being thus in all respects suited to promote the good of mankind, and the welfare and happiness of society in this world, arises a
strong and forcible argument that the Bible is from God, and Christianity has a divine original.
They who reject the Bible as a revelation from God do generally confess that the rules of moral conduct contained in it are suited to promote the good of society, and the peace and happiness of mankind in this world; and that Christian morality, and attendance on the institutions of the Christian religion, public worship and instruction, tend to promote civility and good order among men, and the political good of society. In this they appear to be really inconsistent with themselves, and confute their own creed. For this being granted, (and grant it they must, or deny what is evident from reason and fact,) the inference is clear and strong, that the Bible is a revelation from heaven.
Were the Bible a contrivance of man, of one man, or any number of men, who joined to form a plan to promote the good of society, it cannot be reasonably supposed there would be no gross mistakes in it; or that it would be suited to promote the good of society in every age, and different nations of the world, and in all the various and different circumstances of mankind, under all the different forms of civil government, as it really is. Much less can this be supposed, when it is written by different men, unknown to each other, in various ages and nations, and widely differing in their education and particular tastes, habits, and customs. That a book should be written by these men, in such circumstances, on so many different occasions, which, when carefully examined, contains one consistent system of rules for moral life, suited to the comfort and happiness of every individual, and the greatest good of all human societies, and in this respect far exceeding the best code of civil laws that was ever invented, without any light and assistance from this book, is the most incredible position that can be asserted.