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Supreme God; the Creator, Governor, and the Preserver of the universe.
All Christians admit that this one God sent into the world a person called Jesus Christ, who lived, acted, taught, died, and rose again in the manner related of him in the New Testament.
All Christians agree, that there will be a future state of being, when virtue will be rewarded, and vice punished.
All Christians agree that it is their duty to love, honour, and serve God; and to do good to our neighbour.
All Christians agree, that in the absence of virtue it is impossible to be happy in this life.
All Christians agree, that vice of every kind is forbidden, and is uniformly attended with more or less of misery to the perpetrators of it.
To these “principles” might be added a few others, but they are here simplified as much as possible. Some of these truths are admitted by other sects, or classes of religious men, not within the pale of the Christian church: i. e. the Jews, the Mahomedans, and the Deists.
LESSON II. In brief, - Christianity may be said to teach or imply, as we find it written in the Holy Scriptures : it may be intimated that we learn from those writings in what true religion consists, and how the knowledge of it is to be attained. We discover something of the existence, nature, and attributes of Almighty God-his names and titles—his majesty, greatness, perfection, glory, sovereignty, absoluteness, and providence. We learn that God is a spirit, invisible, incorruptible; most strong, almighty, and omnipotent;-most wise, holy, and just; compassionate and merciful; long suffering and patient;
generous and bountiful; faithful and unchangeable; infinite, internal; one living, self-existent Being.
From the sacred writings, we also learn the history of the nature, state, and duties of man; what he was in the first estate wherein he was created, and of his fall, or degradation from that pure state; and of his condition since the fall :—that vice or sin entered the world, corrupting all mankind more or less, rendering them unclean and wicked; and, therefore, opposed to the divine displeasure, and to the evil consequences of their own folly; as men under the condemnation of a violated law.
The Christian religion teaches also by what means mankind may be rescued from the penal consequences of their guilt; by pointing out the first cause, and the great plan of redemption through or by our saviour Christ, whose excellency, fulness, dignity, and authority are clearly set forth. His religion explains how Christ wrought salvation for sinners ;—what he was made, what he is, and what he did in order to it; procuring for them the means of pardon and remission of sins ; reconciliation with God; justification and sanctification before God; salvation, and life for evermore.
The Christian religion further shows how men may have the benefit of this salvation; or by what means it becomes theirs. It also treats of faith; its nature and object, use, benefits, effects, and fruits.
As the consequent results of true faith, we learn in the Christian code the necessity of good works; the characters of saints or true believers, manifested and displayed in what are denominated the fruits of the spirit; holiness of heart, and purity of conduct; particularly shewn in our duty to God, to live to him and not to ourselves; to be holy, walking in the light, in an heavenly and spiritual conversation, worthy of our high calling; to worship God; and set our affections on heavenly and holy things.
Christianity teaches beside, the object, nature, and end of "prayer,” public and private; and how we
should take especial notice of the various acts of God's goodness and mercy; celebrate his praises, and exhort others to do the same. That we should fear God, trust in him above all other dependencies, at all times, and in all cases; that we should walk humbly before him; opposing all high thoughts, and avoid boasting and vituperation.'
Christianity most clearly points out the moral and social duties; shewing the duties of the good towards each other, in the several relations of life; whether as followers of the same spiritual head and teacher, or as they stand related to one another simply as Christians.
Again,-Christianity taken in its most extensive sense, is a complete code of moral and religious instruction; and leaves nothing to be learnt or taught that is essential to man's comfort here, or happiness hereafter. It holds out the most exalted motives to virtue and holiness; offers the highest rewards to the good, and denounces punishments against the wicked and rebellious; ~it accommodates itself to all ranks and conditions of men ; to kings and to subjects, to the affluent and the indigent; the prosperous and the adverse. In a 'moral point of view it knows no distinctions among men-only the good and the bad, the Christian and the Antichristian.
THE CHRISTIAN SALVATION. SALVATION means deliverance from something that is suffered : it is, therefore, a term of very general application; but, in reference to our spiritual condition, it means deliverance from the wiles with which we are afflicted in consequence of our departure from God.
It implies deliverance from ignorance, not ignorance of human science, but from ignorance of God, the first and
the last, the greatest and the wisest, the holiest and best of beings, the maker of all things, the centre of all perfection, the fountain of all happiness. Ignorant of God, we cannot give him acceptable worship, we cannot rightly obey his will, we cannot hold communion with him here, we cannot be prepared for the enjoyment of his presence hereafter. But from this ignorance we are rescued by the salvation of the gospel, which reveals God to us, which makes us acquainted with his nature, his attributes, his character, his government, and which especially unfolds to us that scheme of mercy in which he has most clearly manifested his own glory.
Salvation implies deliverance from guilt. The law denounces a penalty against those who break it. That penalty is exclusion from heaven, and deprivation of God's favour, and consignment to the place of misery. But from this penalty there is deliverance provided. Christ has expiated guilt. He has made “reconciliation for iniquity.” He has purchased eternal life. And “to those who are in him there is no condemnation.” Their sins are forgiven. They are at “peace with God.” And there is nothing to prevent him from pouring out upon them the riches of his mercy, and making them happy for ever.
This salvation implies deliverance from the power of sin. We are naturally the slaves of this power. Sin reigns in us as the descendants of apostate Adam. We cannot throw off its yoke by any virtue or efforts of our own. And so long as it maintains its ascendancy, we are degraded, and polluted, and miserable. But provision is made in the gospel for our emancipation. Christ "gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all our iniquities,” and that sin might have no “more dominion over us.” And all who believe in him are made free to serve that God whose service is the sweetest liberty, and the highest honour.
The salvation of the gospel implies deliverance from the ills and calamities of life. It does not imply this
literally; for, under the dispensation of the gospel, there is, strictly speaking, no exemption from bodily disease, from outward misfortune, or from the thousand distresses that flesh is heir to. But Christ has given such views of the providence of God,-he has brought life and immortality so clearly to light, and has so modified and subdued the operations of sin, which is the cause of all our sufferings, that these are no longer real evils to them that believe. When we are brought into a filial relation to God, the afflictions that he sends form a part of that discipline which he employs to improve our graces, and to prepare us for his presence. He supports us under them, he overrules and sanctifies them for our spiritual advantage, and he thus divests them of all that is frightful, and converts them into blessings. · This salvation implies deliverance from the power and the fear of death. Nature recoils from the agonies of dissolution, and from the corruption of the grave. But Christ has “vanquished death, and him that had the power of it.” He has plucked out its sting, he has secured our final triumph over it, and has thus taught us to dismiss all our alarms. Our bodies must return to our kindred earth ; but they shall be raised again, spiritual, incorruptible, and glorious. They shall be reunited to their never-dying and sainted partners, and shall enter into the regions of immortality.
And, while the salvation of the gospel implies our deliverance from all these evils, it also implies our admission into the heavenly state. It is in order to bring us there at last that all the benefits just enumerated are conferred upon us, and it is there accordingly that they shall be consummated. We are delivered from ignorance; and in heaven no cloud shall obscure our view,
no veil of prejudice shall cover our hearts. We are delivered from guilt, and in heaven, at its very threshold, our acquittal and justification shall be proclaimed before an assembled world, and God's reconciled countenance shall shine upon us for ever. We are delivered from the