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SERMON XXIII.

EASTER SUNDAY.

2 Tim. i. 10.

Who hath brought life and immortality to light through the

Gospel. WHATSOEVER modifications any opinion may undergo from oral tradition, from popular theology, from the fictions of poets, or the researches of philosophers, the universality of its reception is generally considered as a decisive proof that it rests upon some principle natural to the mind of man. The force of this observation is admitted by many able writers who, from the very diversity of sentiments which has prevailed about the nature, or the attributes, or the designs, or the works of God, have, by legitimate inference, drawn some degree of additional evidence from his existence.

The laws of analogical reasoning will justify us in applying the same argument to the belief of a future life; and in point of fact, wheresoever the being of a Deity is acknowledged, some indistinct notions of our responsibility to him as moral agents have also been observed. In all countries, whether barbarous or civilized, the hopes and fears of men have carried their views beyond the grave, and the various ceremonies, which have been practised in honour of the dead, appear to have been accompanied by a secret and soothing conviction, that the objects to whom those honours were paid, have passed into some other state of being. It is, indeed, of importance to us to remark, that even those philosophical sects, who employed their ingenuity against the doctrine of a life to come, found it necessary, for the

for the purpose of consistency, to controvert the existence of a Deity, or at least to maintain, that no moral government was administered by him, and consequently that there were no intelligible grounds for the expectation of punishments and rewards, adapted to the antecedent conduct of his creatures.

If the feelings and judgments of all mankind in different states of civilization, of laws, of science, and religion, lead them to reflect on these subjects ; and if some degree of uncertainty accompanies those reflections, in the enlightened sage and the untutored peasant, surely a presumption arises, that a divine revelation, though communicated as it must unavoidably be with some properties different from the ordinary course of God's providence, would have a direct tendency to diminish that uncertainty. Now the revelation given, as we hold, to Moses, asserted the existence and unity of God. The revelation granted to us in the Gospel of Christ asserts the reality of a future life. The arguments by which the credibility of either of these revelations as such, is supported, however convincing to ourselves, may not be equally satisfactory to every inquirer. But upon the strictest principles of philosophy every inquirer must admit, à priori, that a revelation upon either point is desirable; he must admit that, if for the purpose of encouraging virtue and diffusing happiness among his rational creatures, a righteous and benevolent Being were to employ such a revelation, the very act of employing it would, in our apprehension, be an additional instance of his righteousness and his benevolence. The circumstances with which any religion professing to come from above is accompanied—the ends to which it seems to be subservient—the doctrines it teaches—and the conduct of the persons by whom they are taught, as means adapted to the attainment of that end, must upon all general principles of reasoning be very important criteria for a serious and impartial examiner to decide upon its pretensions to general reception. Keeping those principles in view when we investigate the particular claims of Christianity, and appealing unequivocally to those criteria, we may with great propriety adopt, and we may with great success defend, the declaration of the Apostle, that God hath brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.

Whatsoever influence the subtleties and refinements of philosophical sects may have had upon the minds of contemplative men in their closets, they have never been found of sufficient efficacy to produce any general belief, or to destroy that desire of renovated existence that dread of chastise

ment for evil actions - that solicitude for recompense to virtuous habits, which seems to have been instinctively implanted in the human heart.

But upon this, as well as upon many other subjects connected with religion, the inconsistency of mankind will not produce any lasting emotions of surprise in those observers who have remarked the latent and baneful influence of early prepossession. When the resurrection taught by Christianity was propounded to the Jews, they rejected it, not because they had a settled and indiscriminate disbelief of futurity, but because the great Author of our faith, in opening the purposes for which he was sent upon earth, gave no countenance to such wild and fantastic notions as they entertained of that temporal kingdom, the arrival of which they considered as an event inseparably connected with the · coming of the promised Messiah. When St. Paul told the Athenians that the dead should be raised, the doctrine of a futurity was presented to them in a form far different from that in which they had been accustomed to contemplate it, whether as incorporated with the national religion, or as illustrated by philosophical investigation. It is indeed a melancholy instance of the infatuation to which the human mind may, in some circumstances, be degraded, when we read, that even so enlightened a people as the Athenians looked upon St. Paul as an idle babbler—that Jesus appeared to them in his preaching a new God—and that even the resurrection for which he contended, only as a fact, was invested by his hearers with personality, and derided

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as being a goddess in the very estimation and even language of the Apostle himself. Strange and unfounded as was this misconception, the greater part of the Athenians still retained their faith in a future state; and the cause of their objection to the preaching of St. Paul, was not merely that he employed new terms for his doctrine, but that he rested it upon evidence which, to their understandings, was new, and therefore incredible.

We, whose views upon the moral government of God are more enlarged and more correct than those of the Heathen world, discover a singular and direct propriety in the peculiarities of that proof, upon which the Apostle lays claim to our assent. We admit in common with past ages the force of that evidence, which is found in the hopes and fears of nearly all mankind— found in the readiness of our fellow-creatures to embrace popular tradition, political descriptions, historical narratives, and theological dogmas, as tending to confirm those hopes and those fears — found in the strong presumptions which the unequal distributions of happiness and misery in this life suggest for the probability of another state, in which that inequality will be corrected

- found in those circuitous and abstract reasonings which many sages have employed, when they contended that the immateriality of the soul amounted almost to a demonstration of its imperishable and therefore immortal nature. But we are not content to place our belief upon those foundations alone. We are not satisfied even with maintaining that the views which Christianity exhibits of a life

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