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and deny, and ridicule the fundamental doctrines of the gospel.
Liberty of conscience is your birthright. You are not children of the bond woman, but of the free." There is nothing in the Scriptures which debars you from full inquiry into all truth, or which demands of you an assent to its doctrines without an examination of the evidence that they come from God. You boast of this liberty. But it is this which renders you so fearfully responsible. It is this which gives the divine government such resistless claims upon you, if you turn your liberty into licentiousness, and under the specious pretence of this right, become sceptics, or deists, or the enemies of God and his truth.
THE MORALITY OF THE BIBLE.
THERE is no one particular in which the Bible has effected a greater change in the condition of the world, than its outward and visible morality. To say nothing of that spiritual character upon which the Scriptures every where insist, there is not now, nor has there been ever, any portion of the world where the principles of revealed religion have been received, where the most astonishing changes have not been produced in the moral habits of society. This justice must be done to infidelity, that while it has waged war upon the truths of the Bible, it has commended its moral precepts; and while it has ridiculed its miracles and prophecies, it has ingenuously acknowledged that its morality is altogether more pure and lofty than that which philosophy ever taught. And however involuntarily, or incautiously made, such confessions are no unmeaning homage rendered to the truth of the sacred Scriptures. For, if disjointed, disfigured, mutilated, torn from its foundations, and deprived of all its natural life and vigour, as it has been by the great mass of infidel writers, the morality of the Bible has grandeur and excellence enough to extort the commendation of its enemies; what must it be, when undisturbed from its foundations, unsevered from its proper aliment, it is seen and recognized in its true power and excellence !
Neither pagan philosophers, nor modern infidels, nor the philosophical world in Christian lands have been without their moral theories. When the Saviour of men descended from heaven, the Grecian and Oriental philosophy had obtained powerful influence over the thinking part of mankind ;—the former prevailing throughout Greece and Rome, the latter throughout Persia, Syria, Chaldea, and Egypt. “ The Greeks sought after wisdom.” And yet among them we find the sect of the Epicureans, who believed that the world arose from chance; that the gods extended no care over human affairs; that the soul was mortal ; that pleasure was the chief good; and that virtue was to be prized only as it contributed to man's enjoyment. The Academical philosophy, from Plato down to the period when the Academic school was transferred to Rome, was professedly a system of doubt and scepticism. Its disciples denied the possibility of arriving at truth and certainty; held it doubtful whether the gods existed, or did not exist; whether the soul is mortal and survives the body; and whether virtue is preferable to vice, or vice to virtue. The most profound, as well as the most ingenious of this sect yielded to the notion, that amid the endless varieties of human opinion, nothing could be decided. This evil was so deeply felt by Socrates, that he deemed it necessary that an instructor should be sent from heaven with special authority to reveal and enforce the duty of man. The Stoics held that man was bound to act according to his nature; that nature impels him to pursue whatever appears to be a good ; that the great object of pursuit is not pleasure, but conformity to nature, and that this is the origin of all moral Obligation. The Oriental philosophy regarded matter as eternal, and as the source and origin of all evil and vice; and that the material creation in its present form, and the race of man, derive their origin not from the supreme God, but from some inferior being. The Persians asserted the existence of two eternal principles, the one presiding over light, the other over matter; the one good, and the other evil.* The professed character of the gods of paganism was distinguished for crime, while the religion of those who worshipped them required them to be immoral.
I hold it to be a truth capable of clear demonstration, that no man is better than his principles. To be virtuous, he must possess virtuous principles. “ As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” As his principles are, so is the man. There is an indissoluble connection between the nature of his moral conduct, and the principles from which they flow. Any thing may be called by any name, and any thing may appear under any shape; but never can it happen that of “thorns men gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.” Men are governed in their outward deportment by their inward views and motives. It is so in politics, in literature, in science and the arts; and it is so in morals and religion. And yet how often do we hear it asserted, that it is of little consequence what a man believes, if his heart is right; that you must look at his character and not at his doctrine; that good men are to be found in pagan, Mohammedan, and Christian lands, and of all creeds and professions; that moral conduct is not the result of any
* Murdock's Mosheim, Warburton's Divine Legation, and Cudworth's Intellectual System.
set of opinions; and that it is of no consequence what a man's faith is, if he is only sincere! But this is a delusive and destructive morality. If there be any truth in such a theory, moral principles are of no account whatever. One system of morals is as good as another, and those persons are just as likely to be virtuous who believe what is false, as those who believe what is true. But common sense instinctively revolts from such a doctrine, while all observation and experience evince its absurdity. Good conduct never grows out of corrupt principles, nor is evil conduct the natural result of principles that are good. Is it so that a man may be one thing in his principles, and another in his morality; one thing in his belief, and another in his character ? By what sort of philosophy is it that he is thus divided against himself; that he is thus torn asunder, and while one part of him is pronounced good, another is pronounced bad ? A man's principles are himself. His morality is himself. Suppose for a moment that the hypothesis on which we are animadverting should be realized. Here is a man who is one thing in his principles and another thing in his practice. He believes for example that the earth is a sphere, and yet he navigates it as though it were a plain. He believes that food is necessary to animal life, and yet he abstains from food. He believes that the hand of the diligent maketh rich, and yet he is a sluggard. He believes that fire will burn, and yet he plunges deliberately into the flames. He believes that Jehovah is the true God, and yet he worships the devil. You call him a madman; and well you may; but not more certainly than the man who believes there is no difference between what is right and what is wrong, and yet forms all his plans and conduct with a view to that difference; not