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the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” To this study and comparison then we would not hesitate to invite the skeptic, and if he will but treat the subject fairly, he will be compelled to acknowledge that those very things, which he has been accustomed to regard as the reproach, and an evidence of the falsity of the gospel, do instead furnish a most convincing argument for its divinity. The perversions of it by man, and the almost universal tendency to pervert, or at least abbreviate it, will prove to a candid mind, that it did not originate with man.
THE PERVERSIONS OF THE ROMAN CHURCH. To examine them with any thoroughness would require a volume, we may only briefly note some of the main features. We see then a church professedly Christian which for centuries held wide sway in the civilized world. Its doctrines and spirit have been fully exhibited, and can be studied in the history of many generations.
We cannot nor are we disposed to deny that in her creed are presented many evangelical doctrines, or that within her fold and through her ministry a vast amount of moral and spiritual good has been effected, but with this we have not now to do. We look upon the darker side of her history. We see her claiming to be supreme upon earth, to hold exclusively the keys of heaven and hell and to have within her fold all that are to be saved. In her priesthood, beginning with the lowest priest and upwards through the ascending grades to bishops, arch-bishops, cardinals and pope, resides the power to grant absolution to sinners, on confession, or for reasons which seem to them fitting, to withhold the favor and consign to eternal perdition. The head of this hierarchy, the Pope, is Christ's Vice-gerent on earth, and is infallible. He can remit sins or permit them, and his pardons and indulgences have been purchased with money.
Thus, through this consecrated line of apostolic successes in the priesthood, grace comes to man as a sinner. Those who yield assent to this system and seek salvation within the fold of the church, are promised life, but if any refuse, the church claims the right to coerce to conformity, or to deliver the rebellious into
the hand of the tormentor or executioner. History teaches to what extent this right has been exercised. The swords of the faithful have reeked with the blood of heretics, the scaffolds; the flames, the dungeons and galleys, and the secret chambers and vaults of the Inquisition, have received thousands and tens of thousands of the incorrigible.
But how has the church instructed those that have acknowledged her authority? She has taught them to look to her priesthood alone for spiritual knowledge. She has shut the Bible and forbidden them to read, lest they be destroyed by heresy, and then has fed them on such doctrines as transubstantiation, auricurlar confession ,priestly absolution ,penance for sin, and purgatorial purification, and has taught them to adore the Virgin, to pray to saints, to reverence relics, to acquire merit by repetition of pater-nosters, to observe fasts and holy days, and cross themselves with holy water. If in these things they are faithful, common vices and immoralities of life, venial sins, do not hinder them from being good Christians. Such are some of the marked characteristics of the Roman Church. And though better doctrines and teachings and lives have been known within her communion, yet her history for centuries abundantly verifies the description given. The skeptic studies this history as did Voltaire, and exclaims, Is this system of priestly power and ambition, this tyranny, intolerance and cruelty, this merchandise of sin, this mass of superstition and ignorance, Christianity? Then I reject with scorn such a gospel.
But we call on the skeptic to pause. We put into his hand the New Testament and bid him study Christianity as Jesus has taught it and as it appeared in the apostolic age, and compare it with this perversion of Rome. What a contrast does he behold! In the place of priestly power and ambition, a fraternity of humble men, bound together by a common love to Christ and his truth, all equal in the sight of heaven, and all priests unto God ; in the place of tyranny, intolerance and cruelty, mutual service, kind instruction, patient persuasion, gentleness and love; instead of the traffic in sin, the most severe purity of heart and life demanded as service to God; instead of a superstitious worship of the Virgin, the invocation of saints and adoration of relics, an enlightened worship of the living and true God in spirit and in truth, and the seeking of salvation from the power and consequence of sin through Jesus Christ the only Saviour. Here is true freedom, true morality, true worship. Who can look with a candid and sincere mind upon such a contrast without feeling constrained to say, This system of worldly pomp, power and policy shows man's authorship, that system of heavenly truth and wisdom is from God? The human perversion, only the more irresistibly compels us to acknowledge the divine origin of the true. If after centuries of study and elaboration, in which work wrought many whom we must confess to have been wise men, and Christian men, we witness as the result such a degeneration from a perfect system of truth and worship to the system of popery, we cannot avoid the conviction, that that system itself, the pure and holy gospel of Jesus, established in an age and among a people of greatest corruption of doctrine and manners, must have been conceived by higher than human wisdom and human virtue. To the same conclusion shall we be led, if we contrast with the pure gospel, the perversions of the Greek church and the other Eastern churches. These show us what are the gospels which man's wisdom and goodness have framed even from such materials as the New Testament has put into his hand, and prove him incapable of originating the gospel.
Let us now turn our attention in an opposite direction, to view the perversions of Christianity by
GERMAN PHILOSOPHERS AND PHILOSOPHY AND THEIR
THINKERS AND WRITERS OF OTHER LANDS.
These are men of highly cultivated minds, who claim to be farthest removed from superstition. They have undertaken to remodel Christianity, to free it from errors and crudities which they have discovered in it as at first delivered. And what have they given us ? systems which, for their greater simplicity, sublime truth, and purer morals, command our ready assent as improvements on the gospel ? Far from it. On the contrary, the more they have diverged from the simple gospel, the less worthy of respect have their emendations become till for fancifulness and absurdity they equal the dreams of a sleeper. We find them attempting to explain the miracles of Christ on natural principles, or resolving his power into that of a mesmerist and conjurer, or reducing his history to a mere myth, or allegorical fiction, in which the church embodied their ideas moral and spiritual. We find them teaching Christianity to be a development of human reason, which progresses from age to age, and they hesitate not to lay aside many of the teachings of Christ and his apostles respecting the character and destiny of man and the method of redemption. They loosen the bonds of morality, make little or nothing of faith and repentance and prayer, and substitute some general philosophical ideas of the beautiful and the true for the holy, and the cultivation of the intellect for the piety of the heart. And these systems, a combination of philosophical speculation, literary criticism, fanciful theories, with some elements of religious truth, they denominate Christianity, but they are utterly powerless to affect the hearts or renovate the characters of men.
The gospel of Christ is emphatically a religion for every class, the poor, the ignorant and the savage, as well as the rich, the wise and the enlightened, but these amended gospels of philosophers, either require a life of philosophical study to apprehend them, or are so fanciful and puerile as to cause a smile of derision when announced to any man of good sense, whose mind has not been sophisticated by philosophical speculations. There is nothing in them, which has power over the spirit of man, which has grasp upon his conscience, and with authoritative words direct him to duty.
From these perversions, it is a relief to turn to the pure gospel, and after viewing these fruits of human wisdom, it is with an increased conviction that they are not of man, that we study the pure and holy teachings of revelation. Is it not a proof of its divine origin, that when learned men, with the teachings and experience of eighteen centuries before them, undertake to improve upon the gospel, as given in the New Testament, they do so invariably fall into puerilities, or plunge into monstrosit ies, or float off into wild vagaries and transcendental theories ?
But while these works of man appear on the stage of the world for a little while and vanish with their authors from remembrance, or are kept from perishing only as they are referred to for illustration of the absurdities and extravagancies of the human intellect, the gospel in its simplicity comes down unchanged from age to age, and ever finds hearts and mind to accept it and live by it, and give up all for it and the hopes it creates. So the human perishes but the divine endures.
Again we may draw an argument for the divine original of the gospel from the various perversions of
THE UNEVANGELICAL SECTS.
We have reference to those systems which repudiate, or by their modifications of them render null, such fundamental doctrines of the gospel, as inherent Depravity, Regeneration and Sanctification by the Holy Spirit's power, Redemption by the vicarious sufferings of Christ, and Future Eternal Retributions of the righteous and the wicked.
Multitudes there are in Christian lands who adopt such perversions of the gospel for the truth, and claim that it is the Christianity of Jesus Christ. Many do it honestly having set out with a wrong bias of mind to investigate truth, many have willingly given up their judgments to be moulded by prejudice and desire, many have perversely sought not to know the real truth, but to bend scripture to their preconceived and chosen opinions. But whatever the influences that have led men, they have variously departed from the truth as it is in Jesus, and have adopted a mutilated gospel in the place of the true.
These systems are but particular illustrations of the almost universal desire and disposition of man to seek for some modification of divine truth, instead of receiving it as given, in humbleness and submission. It is a fact, that the doctrines of Christianity do not suit the natural heart of man. His pride of intellect and station, his perverseness of heart, and love of sinful objects, his disrelish for true godliness, all are opposed to these divine truths, and so the unsanctified mind longs for some way of avoiding them. Left to himself and his natural likings, man would never have framed such a system as Jesus Christ has