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mind is refreshed and rejoices as she drinks her fill at some pure fountain of knowledge. It were grateful to know, did the acquisition only exalt and expand the mind; but it is still more grateful when we recollect, that truth opens so many other sources of enjoyment; enjoyment that is valuable, because it is pure and enduring, which never palls on the intellectual appetite, and which, the oftener it is repeated, is the more sure to be repeated without satiety.
It is not every man who has the opportunity of augmenting these sources of enjoyment. Nature perhaps has denied him the talents, or the providence of God has withheld from him the means of extensive intellectual acquisition; and therefore his mind is narrow, his faculties are degraded, his taste for pleasure is uncultivated and coarse, and he is too apt to be dependent upon the gratifications of sense. Especially have these remarks force,'as they relate to the various branches of moral science. Men may be ignorant in very many departments of human knowledge with comparative impunity; but there are subjects of intellectual research, in which every man, without distinction of rank and condition, has a deep and everlasting interest. A being who is the creature of account, and destined to immortality, whatever else he may forego, may not be ignorant of moral and religious truth.
We have seen in the progress of these lectures, that the world is not a little indebted to the Bible for its advancement in various departments of human knowledge. But we should have very inadequate impressions of what we owe to this sacred volume, did we limit them by the information it communicates in the departments of human knowledge merely. The knowledge which most deeply interests us is that
which relates to the destinies of man as the creature of God and the heir of immortality. Other knowledge has principal reference to the present world, and ter minates with the present life; this refers to the soul, and is lasting as eternity.
We are scarcely aware how little the world knows, or ever has known of religious truth, for which it is not altogether indebted to this sacred book. We cannot indeed form any distinct and just conception of the intellectual condition of our race, had the light of a supernatural revelation never shone upon our doubt and darkness. The present actual condition of those portions of the human family who are destitute of the Scriptures, degraded and dark as they are, does not furnish a faithful development of the still deeper and more profound darkness which would have rested on them, had the light of heavenly truth, instead of having been once enjoyed, and subsequently extinguished, never shone upon them. The design of this lecture, therefore, is to mark as clearly as we can in the compass of a single exercise, the influence of the Bible upon the researches and certainty of moral science.
It has been customary with a certain class of men to represent in glowing colours the powers of human reason; to eulogize and almost deify the intellectual faculties of man, and to give them so high a place as to dispense with the light of a supernatural revelation. Not a little has been said, and much better than we can say it, to dispel this illusion. Moral and religious truth is a field which the lights of reason have never explored, and unaided, can never explore. Under the direction of perfectly sanctified affections, she might indeed have been a safe and sure guide, so far as her limited powers could extend. Unfallen, she might discover the expressive indications of her
Maker's will and glory in his works and providence, and everywhere read his truth, “clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.” But the “gold has become dim, and the most fine gold is changed.” Her once eagle eye is darkened and benighted. This once lofty intelligence is fallen, its vision dimmed, and its faculties weakened and perverted. I do not know a more fruitful source of error than confidence in the undirected, and therefore misdirected, powers of the human mind in its inquiries after religious truth. It is the apurov Usvoos, the radical error of all false religions, and of every deviation froin the true. It would seem that rationalists have forgotten, or are unwilling to acknowledge the extent of man's apostasy. They have exalted the powers of human reason to an elevation known only to unfallen humanity, and have paid a reverence to its dictates which belongs only to the infinite and unerring Intelligence. I do not hesitate to say, that the man who does not construct his theory of moral science upon the broad basis of human apostasy, and who is not deeply sensible that, at every step of his progress, he has to contend not only with a depraved heart and an erring conscience, but also with an understanding that is darkened and defiled, is sure to construct one that is visionary and wild. It is lamentable, that the age of extravagant encomium upon the intellectual powers of man has not ceased. Who, in a Christian audience, is not weary of these misplaced and ill-timed commendations ? What have the boasted powers of reason, unaided and unillumined by light from heaven, ever, achieved? Where are their splendid victories over the empire of darkness? What are the conclusions to which they have arrived, the results which they have adopted and defended ? After following them through all the intricacies and darkness of their labyrinths, into what world of light do they conduct us?
We cannot answer these inquiries without taking a passing glance at some of the leading religious principles of pagan philosophers and more modern deists, and showing their utter insufficiency to answer the great ends of religion. Of the former we may truly say, that it is painful and even disgusting to contemplate the ignorance of the most celebrated of their number on almost all moral and religious subjects. Their endless differences and inconsistencies upon topics which they conceived to be of the highest importance, were such, that one would think it impossible for themselves even, to have had any confidence in their own speculations. Such too was the immorality of their doctrines, that wherever they were believed they could not fail to exert a pernicious influence upon the opinions and practices of men. Some believed in the existence of a God; others did not.
Some were unitarians; others were polytheists. Every country had its deities which differed from all others : some in the heavens; some in the air; some in the ocean : some in the infernal regions; while some were deified heroes and men. Every thing about their religion was dark, confused, and imperfect. As we have already seen, they were the grossest idolaters, and their religious rites were distinguished by all that is impure and cruel. They were utterly ignorant of any method of salvation, as well as any effectual means for the attainment of holiness. They had no definite notions of the end for which man was created, or of that in which his highest happiness consists. Of the resurrection of the body, they knew nothing, and were in a state of painful suspense concerning the immor*ality of the soul. They spoke of Elysium and 'Tartarus, but these were poetical fancies rather than any just conception of the doctrine of rewards and punishments. The insufficiency of their religion is every where proved from its defective discoveries of the being and character of the only true God; from the absurdities of their worship ; from.their ignorance of the true sources of human enjoyment; from their imperfect rules of duty, and ineffectual motives to obedience; from their utter darkness on the great subject of pardon for the guilty, and the utter powerlessness of their systems to arrest and subdue the power of moral corruption.*
And what more has reason done for the pagans of modern, than for those of ancient times ? Pass through heathen lands; visit the savage tribes of Africa and our own continent; travel over Hindostan and China ; and you will see how little unaided reason can effect in discovering a system of religious truth. Sorcery, divination and magic; the transmigration of souls into animals and vegetables after death; endless superstitions and gross darkness, are the acknowledged characteristics of their religion. There is indeed an imposing mythology; there is the grandeur of temples, the decoration of altars and priests, and idols; there is the pomp of their ritual, and the gaiety of their festivals; while the awful tragedy is distinguished by nothing more certainly than the wild and wanton dance, the sanguinary procession, and the bones of men offered to their idol deities, bleaching under the arid sky.
If you ascend somewhat higher than these degradations of paganism, and enquire what reason has achieved among deistical philosophers, what do you
* See these positions illustrated at length in Halyburton's Enquiry. The ablest dissertation I have met with on this general topic is from the pen of the late Dr. John M. Mason, entitled “ Hints on the Insufficiency of the Light of Nature.”