Christianity may produce agitation, anger, tumult as at Ephesus; but the diffusion of the pure gospel of Christ, and the establishment of the institutions of honesty and virtue, at whatever cost, is a blessing to mankind.
If ever Christianity appears in its power, it is when it erects its trophies upon the tomb; when it takes up its votaries where the world leaves them; and fills the breast with immortal hope in dying moments.
Christianity is, above all other religions ever known, a religion of sacrifice. It is a religion founded on the greatest of all sacrifices, the sacrifice of the incarnation, culminating in the sacrifice on Calvary.
Christianity, Christ, heaven, hell, the judgment, sin, holiness, God,these, and whether they be true or false, and our personal relations to them, whether they be right or wrong, are things to know about, not to be doubting or guessing about.
Personal Christianity is not a creed, however orthodox; not a ritualism, however Scriptural; not a profession, however outwardly consistent; not a service, however seemingly useful; but is Christ in man.
Christianity teaches us to moderate our passions; to temper our affections toward all things below; to be thankful for the possession, and patient under loss, whenever He who gave shall see fit to take away.
Christianity is more than history; it is also a system of truths. Every event which its history records, either is a truth, or suggests a truth, or expresses a truth which man needs to assent to or to put into practice.
It awes by the majesty of its truths, it agitates by the force of its compunctions, it penetrates the heart by the tenderness of its appeals, and it casts over the abyss of thought, the shadow of its eternal grandeur.
Where science speaks of improvement, Christianity speaks of renovation; where science speaks of development, Christianity speaks of sanctification; where science speaks of progress, Christianity speaks of perfection.
Christian graces are like perfumes; the more they are pressed, the sweeter they smell; like stars that shine brightest in the dark; like trees, the more they are shaken, the deeper root they take, and the more fruit they bear.
Christianity does not consist in a proud priesthood, a costly church, an imposing ritual, a fashionable throng, a pealing organ, loud responses to the creed, and reiterated expressions of reverence for the name of Christ; but in the spirit of filial trust in God, and ardent, impartial, overflowing love to man.
Look back to the cross, and the disciples gazing on it in terror from afar, and then look around on the nations that are influenced by the faith that there centresand note the change! Then take these elements, established in history, and calculate the orbit Christianity is to fill.
We are blessed with a faith, which calls into action the whole intellectual man; which prescribes a reasonable service; which challenges the investigation of its evidences; and which, in the doctrine of immortality, invests the mind of man with a portion of the dignity of Divine intelligence.
It happened very providentially, to the honor of the Christian religion, that it did not take its rise in the dark illiterate ages of the world, but at a time when arts and sciences were at their height.
Christianity is no mere scheme of doctrine or of ethical practice, but is instead a kind of miracle, a power out of nature and above, descending into it; a historically supernatural movement on the world, that is visibly entered into it, and organized to be an institution in the person of Jesus Christ.
Christian faith is a grand cathedral, with divinely pictured windows. Standing without you see no glory, nor can possibly imagine any. Nothing is visible but the merest outline of dusky shapes. Standing within all is clear and defined; every ray of light reveals an army of unspeakable splendors.
The greatest, strongest, mightiest plea for the church of God in the world is the existence of the Spirit of God in its midst, and the works of the Spirit of God are the true evidences of Christianity. They say miracles are withdrawn, but the Holy Spirit is the standing miracle of the church of God to-day.
The strong argument for the truth of Christianity is the true Christian; the man filled with the Spirit of Christ. The best proof of Christs resurrection is a living church, which itself is walking in a new life, and drawing life from Him who hath overcome death.
Christianity, contrasted with the Jewish system of emblems, is truth in the sense of reality, as substance is opposed to shadows, and, contrasted with heathen mythology, is truth as opposed to falsehood.
Christianity is the only true and perfect religion, and in proportion as mankind adopt its principles and obey its precepts, they will be wise and happy. And a better knowledge of this religion is to be acquired, by reading the Bible than in any other way.
Public charities and benevolent associations for the gratuitous relief of every species of distress, are peculiar to Christianity; no other system of civil or religious policy has originated them; they form its highest praise and characteristic feature.
Had it been published by a voice from heaven, that twelve poor men, taken out of boats and creeks, without any help of learning, should conquer the world to the cross, it might have been thought an illusion against all reason of men; yet we know it was undertaken and accomplished by them.
Christianity is indeed peculiarly fitted to the more improved stages of society, to the more delicate sensibilities of refined minds, and especially to that dissatisfaction with the present state which always grows with the growth of our moral powers and affections.
Christianity has found its triumphs and shown its fruits in every nation and tribe upon the globe; and its results have been in every case the same. Virtue, social order, prosperity, blessedness, the elevation and improvement, in all respects, of the human life, are the uniform and exclusive inheritance of those who receive the Gospel.
If Christianity has really come from heaven, it must renew the whole life of man; it must govern the life of nations no less than that of individuals; it must control a Christian when acting in his public and political capacity as completely as when he is engaged in the duties which belong to him as a member of a family circle.
Read a work on the Evidences of Christianity, and it may become highly probable that Christianity, etc., are true. This is an opinion. Feel God. Do His will, till the Absolute Imperative within you speaks as with a living voice, Thou shalt, and thou shalt not; and then you do not think, you know that there is a God.
Here is Christianity. Whence came it? What is it? It is a force in the world, a prodigious force. It has revolutionized society. It has lifted man out of himself. It has changed the face of the world. There it lies, imbedded in more than eighteen centuries of human history; and history of no mean sort, the best record of the race.
Christianity has carried civilization along with it, whithersoever it has gone; and, as if to show that the latter does not depend on physical causes, some of the countries the most civilized in the days of Augustus are now in a state of hopeless barbarism.
We have now in our possession three instruments of civilization, unknown to antiquity. These are the art of printing; free representative government; and, lastly, a pure and spiritual religion, the deep fountain of generous enthusiasm, the mighty spring of bold and lofty designs, the great sanctuary of moral power.
When I see how fragmentary the structure of religious knowledge was left by nature, when I see how inadequate all the labors of man had proved for its completion,and when I look at the glorious and completed dome reared by Christianity, I cannot but feel that other than human hands have been employed in its structure.
The relations of Christians to each other are like the several flowers in a garden that have upon each the dew of heaven, which, being shaken by the wind, they let fall the dew at each others roots, whereby they are jointly nourished, and become nourishers of one another.
The introduction of the Christian religion into the world has produced an incalculable change in history. There had previously been only a history of nationsthere is now a history of mankind; and the idea of an education of human nature as a whole,an education the work of Jesus Christ Himselfis become like a compass for the historian, the key of history, and the hope of nations.
I have been young, but now am old. I have spent a whole lifetime in battling against infidelity with the weapons of apologetic science; but I have become ever more and more convinced that the way to the heart does not lie through the head; and that the only way to conversion of the head lies through a converted heart which already tastes the living fruits of the Gospel.
Christianity depends finally on consciousness and experience. From other departments of the mind she may retire at times or seem to, but never from this. Sitting here, if allowed to, on the throne of the soul, she occasionally walks into the other rooms and sets them in order; and accustomed to her presence, sooner or later the soul finds every department flooded with her light.
Christianity is perfect, men are imperfect. Now a perfect consequence cannot spring from an imperfect principle. Christianity, therefore, is not the work of man. If Christianity is not the work of man, it can have come from none but God. If it came from God, men cannot have acquired a knowledge of it except by revelation. Therefore, Christianity is a revealed religion.
The real security of Christianity is to be found in its benevolent morality, in its exquisite adaptation to the human heart, in the facility with which its scheme accommodates itself to the capacity of every human intellect, in the consolation which it bears to every house of mourning, in the light with which it brightens the great mystery of the grave.
It is the truth divine, speaking to our whole being: occupying, calling into action, and satisfying mans every faculty, supplying the minutest wants of his being, and speaking in one and the same moment to his reason, his conscience and his heart. It is the light of reason, the life of the heart, and the strength of the will.
All who have been great and good without Christianity would have been much greater and better with it. If there be, amongst the sons of men, a single exception to this maxim, the divine Socrates may be allowed to put in the strongest claim. It was his high ambition to deserve, by deeds, not by creeds, an unrevealed heaven, and by works, not by faith, to enter an unpromised land.
Nature never gives to a living thing capacities not particularly meant for its benefit and use. If Nature gives to us capacities to believe that we have a Creator whom we never saw, of whom we have no direct proof, who is kind and good and tender beyond all that we know of kindness and goodness and tenderness on earth, it is because the endowment of capacities to conceive a Being must be for our benefit and use; it would not be for our benefit and use if it were a lie.
All the graces of Christianity always go together. They so go together that where there is one, there are all, and where one is wanting, all are wanting. Where there is faith, there are love, and hope, and humility; and where there is love, there is also trust; and where there is a holy trust in God, there is love to God; and where there is a gracious hope, there also is a holy fear of God.
Now you say, alas! Christianity is hard; I grant it; but gainful and happy. I contemn the difficulty when I respect the advantage. The greatest labors that have answerable requitals are less than the least that have no regard. Believe me, when I look to the reward, I would not have the work easier. It is a good Master whom we serve, who not only pays, but gives; not after the proportion of our earnings, but of His own mercy.
No religion ever appeared in the world whose natural tendency was so much directed to promote the peace and happiness of mankind. It makes right reason a law in every possible definition of the word. And therefore, even supposing it to have been purely a human invention, it had been the most amiable and the most useful invention that was ever imposed on mankind for their good.
As to the Christian religion, besides the strong evidence which we have for it, there is a balance in its favor from the number of great men who have been convinced of its truth after a serious consideration of the question. Grotius was an acute man, a lawyer, a man accustomed to examine evidence, and he was convinced. Grotius was not a recluse, but a man of the world, who certainly had no bias on the side of religion. Sir Isaac Newton set out an infidel, and came to be a very firm believer.
Ordinarily rivers run small at the beginning, grow broader and broader as they proceed, and become widest and deepest at the point where they enter the sea. It is such rivers that the Christians life is like. But the life of the mere worldly man is like those rivers in Southern Africa, which, proceeding from mountain freshets, are broad and deep at the beginning, and grow narrower and more shallow as they advance. They waste themselves by soaking into the sands, and at last they die out entirely. The farther they run the less there is of them.
Christianity excludes malignity, subdues selfishness, regulates the passions, subordinates the appetites, quickens the intellect, exalts the affections. It promotes industry, honesty, truth, purity, kindness. It humbles the proud, exalts the lowly, upholds law, favors liberty, is essential to it, and would unite men in one great brotherhood. It is the breath of life to social and civil well-being here, and spreads the azure of that heaven into whose unfathomed depths the eye of faith loves to look.
We say, them, that Christianity is adapted to the intellect, because its spirit coincides with that of true philosophy; because it removes the incubus of sensuality and low vice; because of the place it gives to truth; because it demands free inquiry; because its mighty truths and systems are brought before the mind in the same way as the truths and systems of nature; because it solves higher problems than nature can; and because it is so communicated as to be adapted to every mind.
In what consists the entire of Christianity but in this,that feeling an utter incapacity to work out our own salvation, we submit our whole selves, our hearts, and our understandings, to the Divine disposal; and that, relying upon Gods gracious assistance, ensured to our honest endeavors to obtain it, through the mediation of Jesus Christ, we look up to Him, and to Him alone, for safety? Nay, what is the very notion of religion, but this humble reliance upon God?
Christians are continually tempted to do what all controversy solicits them to do; namely, to argue; as if their business was to establish, in the light of the understanding, certain conclusions to which every rational person must assent. But this is to put the main point, the attractive action of God Himself out of the question. If the end of God be what we hold it to be, to bring human souls to Himself, then the means He actually employs must be living and spiritual. They are likely to be infinitely various and subtle; but they will deal principally with the conscience and the affections.
The patriarchal, the Jewish, and the Christian dispensations, are evidently but the unfolding of one general plan. In the first we see the folded bud; in the second the expanded leaf; in the third the blossom and the fruit. And now, how sublime the idea of a religion thus commencing in the earliest dawn of time; holding on its way through all the revolutions of kingdoms and the vicissitudes of the race; receiving new forms, but always identical in spirit; and, finally, expanding and embracing in one great brotherhood the whole family of man! Who can doubt that such a religion was from God?
No, there is nothing on the face of the earth that can, for a moment, bear a comparison with Christianity as a religion for man. Upon this the hope of the race hangs. From the very first, it took its position, as the pillar of fire, to lead the race onward. The intelligence and power of the race are with those who have embraced it; and now, if this, instead of proving indeed a pillar of fire from God, should be found but a delusive meteor, then nothing will be left to the race but to go back to a darkness that may be felt, and to a worse than Egyptian bondage.
We live in the midst of blessings, till we are utterly insensible to their greatness, and of the source from which they flow. We speak of our civilization, our arts, our freedom, our laws, and forget entirely how large a share of all is due to Christianity. Blot Christianity out of the page of mans history, and what would his laws have been?what his civilization? Christianity is mixed up with our very being and our daily life; there is not a familiar object round us which does not wear its mark, not a being or a thing which does not wear a different aspect, because the light of Christian hope is on it; not a law which does not owe its truth and gentleness to Christianity, not a custom, which cannot be traced, in all its holy and healthful parts, to the Gospel.
Christianity bears all the marks of a divine original; it came down from heaven, and its gracious purpose is to carry us up thither. Its author is God; it was foretold from the beginning, by prophecies, which grew clearer and brighter as they approached the period of their accomplishment. It was confirmed by miracles, which continued until the religion they illustrated was established. It was ratified by the blood of its author; its doctrines are pure, sublime, consistent; its precepts just and holy; its worship is spiritual; its service reasonable and rendered practicable by the offers of divine aid to human weakness. It is sanctioned by the promise of eternal happiness to the faithful, and the threat of everlasting misery to the disobedient.
Since its introduction, human nature has made great progress, and society experienced great changes; and in this advanced condition of the world, Christianity, instead of losing its application and importance, is found to be more and more congenial and adapted to mans nature and wants. Men have outgrown the other institutions of that period when Christianity appeared, its philosophy, its modes of warfare, its policy, its public and private economy; but Christianity has never shrunk as intellect has opened, but has always kept in advance of mens faculties, and unfolded nobler views in proportion as they have ascended. The highest powers and affections which our nature has developed, find more than adequate objects in this religion. Christianity is indeed peculiarly fitted to the more improved stages of society, to the more delicate sensibilities of refined minds, and especially to that dissatisfaction with the present state, which always grows with the growth of our moral powers and affections.
Outside of Christianity there have been grand spectacles of activity and force, brilliant phenomena of genius and virtue, generous attempts at reform, learned philosophical systems, and beautiful mythological poems, but no real profound or fruitful regeneration of humanity and society. Jesus Christ from His cross accomplishes what erewhile in Asia and Europe, princes and philosophers, the powerful of the earth, and sages, attempted without success. He changes the moral and the social state of the world. He pours into the souls of men new enlightenment and new powers. For all classes, for all human conditions, He prepares destinies before His advent unknown. He liberates them at the same time that He lays down rules for their guidance; He quickens them and stills them. He places the Divine law and human liberty face to face, and yet still in harmony. He offers an effectual remedy for the evil which weighs upon humanity; to sin He opens the path of salvation, to unhappiness, the door of hope.
Since the revelation of Christianity, all moral thought has been sanctified by religion. Religion has given it a purity, a solemnity, a sublimity, which even among the noblest of the heathen, we shall look for in vain. The knowledge which shone only by fits and dimly on the eyes of Socrates and Plato, that rolled in vain to find the light, has descended over many lands into the huts where poor men lieand thoughts are familiar there, beneath the low and smoky roofs, higher far than ever flowed from the lips of Grecian sage meditating among the magnificence of his pillared temples. The whole condition and character of the human being in Christian countries has been raised up to a loftier elevation; and he may be looked at in the face without a sense of degradation, even when he wears the aspect of poverty and distress. Since that religion was given us, and not before, has been felt the meaning of that sublime expression, The Brotherhood of Man.
While Christianity is speaking in languages more numerous, by tongues more eloquent, in nations more populous than ever before; marshaling better troops, with richer harmony; shrinking from no foe, rising triumphant from every conflict; shaking down the towers of old philosophies that exalt themselves against God; making the steam-press rush under the demand for her Scriptures, and the steam-horse groan under the weight of her charities; emancipating the enslaved, civilizing the lawless, refining literature, inspiring poetry; sending forth art and science no longer clad in soft raiment to linger in kings palaces, but as hardy prophets of God to make earth bud and blossom as the rose; giving God-like breadth and freedom and energy to the civilization that bears its name, elevating savage islands into civilized states, leading forth Christian martyrs from the mountains of Madagascar, turning the clubs of cannibals into the railings of the altars before which Fiji savages call upon Jesus; repeating the Pentecost, by many an ancient river and many a palmy plain; thundering at the seats of ancient paganism; sailing all waters, cabling all oceans, scaling all mountains in the march of its might, and ever enlarging the diameter of those circles of light which it has kindled on earth, and which will soon meet in a universal illumination,you call it a failure! A little more such failure, and we shall have, over all the globe, the new heavens and new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.
Christianity is not a voice in the wilderness, but a life in the world. It is not an idea in the air, but feet on the ground, going Gods way. It is not an exotic to be kept under glass, but a hardy plant to bear twelve manner of fruits in all kinds of weather. Fidelity to duty is its root and branch. Nothing we can say to the Lord, no calling Him by great or dear names, can take the place of the plain doing of His will. We may cry out about the beauty of eating bread with Him in His kingdom, but it is wasted breath and a rootless hope, unless we plow and plant in His kingdom here and now. To remember Him at His table and to forget Him at ours, is to have invested in bad securities. There is no substitute for plain, every-day goodness.