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tries, consisted in the adoration of gods, who had been mortal men, guilty of great crimes and immoralities, and whose worship was carried on by rites and ceremonies of the most profligate nature, which decency forbids to name ; and to which the bulk. of the people in all countries were immoderately attached.
The season now approached, when, as Panl tells the Athenians, the maker and governor of all things, who had at no time failed to cherish and support all his rational offspring, of which he was the common parent; having hitherto left the heathen world to themselves, and to the guidance of their natural powers and faculties, which ought in all reason to have led them to God and their duty to him, and to each other ; did now, in tħe councils of his sovereign wisdom, judge proper not to suffer them to go on any longer in their own ways, without warning them of their departure from their allegiance to him, and from their true happiness. The times of this ignorance, says the apostle, standing in the midst of the court, where cognizance was taken of such matters, God winked at ; commandeth all men every
where to repent : because he hath fixed a day in the which he will judge the world according to justice, ly a man whom he hath appointed; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. Acts xvii. 30, 31.
A new ära was now to commence among the rational creatures of God, to all of whom, every where,
this his solemn decree and command was to be made known by the preaching of the Gospel. Men were not now to rest in
lesser attainments in virtue; but to aim at the highest excellency, a resemblance in goodness to the Divine Being himself. For this is what the great teacher lays down, and which 'he exemplified in all his actions; a finished pattern of picty and goodness in a creature, beyond which our highest ideas cannot go. Matth. v. 44, 45. I say unto you, Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you ; that ye may be the children of your father which is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and on the unjust. When he immediately adds; For if ye love them which love yoll, what reward have ye to expect? Do not even the publicans the same ? and if ye salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the publicans so? As though he had said ; The most selfish will take pains to do good, and to serve others, whilst they find their present account and advantage in it. But a different conduct was required, a more sublime morality was prescribed to his followers. Whatever suffering or injurious usage they might meet with from others, they were not to be hindered thereby from doing them all the good in their power ; and they were to make it their business
to promote the virtue, the present and, future happiness of their, fellow-creature, at the risque of their own ease and
comfort, and even, when duty called them, of life itself.
Efforts like these, according to their different situations, opportunities, and abilities, are indispensably bound
upon all Christians, without exception. This was the new doctrine promulged from heaven, holding forth the supreme love of God the common creator and benefactor, manifesting itself in the love of their fellow-creatures, and seeking their good as their own, as the sum and substance of all human duty and of all true religion, and leading to the highest perfection and happiness.
Most conspicuous were the happy effects of the Gospel at first, in reforming the lives of those in every country who received it: and if mankind had been contented with it, as delivered by its first great teacher, it is not too much to say, that long before this day the whole world would have been won over to embrace it. But when it became perverted from its genuine simplicity; and to proselyte men to the belief of certain opinions was held the chief point, and not to convert them from vice to virtue and a good life, it soon began to lose its salutary efficacy upon the minds of men ; and though multitudes continued to be added to the number of its professors, they did not become better men in practice.
Endless disputes and quarrels about their several superstitious notions, and inventions in religion, grafted on the Gospel, soon filled them with rancour and implacable animosities against each other, which
often proceeded to bloodshed; and they lost what was most valuable in religion, their charity towards each other, whilst contending for shadows. And in the course of a few centuries, and at the beginning of the seventh, Christians were become not only most horridly depraved in moral practice, and sunk into the most abject superstition ; but had multiplied to themselves so many different objects of worship, the mother of Christ and other dead persons, called Saints, male and female ; a trinity of three persons in God, instead of the single person of the God and father of the universe, the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of all mankind; that to preserve this most important doctrine from being overwhelmed and lost in Christian idolatry, as also to punish Christians for their neglect and abuse of the superior light they enjoyed, the Divine Providence seems to have permitted the Arabian impostor Mohammed to succeed in his ambitious designs, and in spreading his new religion over a great part of the globe. This new religion he professed to build upon the foundation of the Divine Unity, as taught by Moses, and by Jesus Christ, which was, as he too justly maintained, entirely corrupted and abandoned by the followers of the latter. And some respectable historians, who are disposed to be candid towards this extraordinary person, relate, that he at first set out under serious impressions, and sincere concern of mind at the
prevalence of idolatry among his countrymen the Arabians, as well as the Christians úniversally.
That he should afterwards take such a horrible way to put down idolatry, and to propagate the knowledge and worship of one God only, by the sword and utter destruction, where any refused or hesitated to embrace his new religion when proposed to them, was to proclaim immediately the falsehood of his own pretensions to be a prophet from God, to all who had any right discernment what God is. For it is impossible that a Being, in whom dwelleth the most perfect truth and goodness, can be pleased with, or approve the compelling of his mistaken and misjudging creatures to abandon their errors concerning himself by outward force and intimidation; for these can only produce a feigned assent, and not real conviction, which can alone be brought about by argument and persuasion. Most unhappy have been the effects of this violence against their fellow-creatures on account of differences in religion, this intolerant and anathematizing spirit against Christians as idolaters, taught and enjoined by this false prophet to his followers. Thus planted and rooted in them, as a principal part of their religion, it has from the first inspired them every where, who are computed to make one-third at least of the habitable world, with the most bitter hatred and enmity to all that bear the name of Christian, considering them as idolaters, and hated of God; so as in general even to refuse them the common offices of humanity on that account, and to afford them no better appellation than that of dogs, and treat them - * with