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ITS LATEST FORM-TREATMENT of it.
boast of humanity in the abstract; therefore an attempt to supply this want, as it always has been supplied, by devices to meet the taste of the vulgar, by prodigies, portents, sorceries; physical mysteries being called in as a compensation for the absence of divine mysteries; science being degraded into an instrument of basest imposture. Finally, intellectual worship after giving birth to all forms of empiricism, ending at last in the elevation of some merely brute power to the throne of the universe; a power which will prove by its triumph, that if intellect, freedom, humanity, have no better protectors than themselves, they must be trampled down; will prove, as we are well assured, by its ultimate discomfiture, that they have another Protector, Him from whom all good and perfect gifts have come.
X. But it will avail little to call up such visions as these, however certain we may feel from the testimony of history that they will one day shew themselves to be realities, if they lead us only to the denunciation of others, to a dread of the words which they speak, or of the acts which they do. Oftentimes I fear such denunciations and such dread conceal a very shallow faith in ourselves; oftentimes they indicate that we are sadly beset with that pride in our own intellectual powers which we attribute to others. Ourselves we need to suspect; our own half belief in the truths of which we talk most loudly; our own readiness to substitute the conclusions of our understandings for the divine teaching. If we heartily confess
these sins and repent of them we shall not magnify the operations of the divine Spirit less because some seem to contemplate them exclusively; we shall not be betrayed into the vulgar and deceitful policy of underrating the reason and faculties of men, because some seem to overvalue them; we shall not fancy that we shew great dexterity and piety when we force a feeling in one direction, because its natural growth seems to be in another.
Rather, we shall regard all the tendencies of particular periods with reverence as indications of God's will, however perverted by man's ignorance and selfishness. When we meet with a fanatical exaltation of spiritual emotions, excitements, extasies, we shall be most anxious to assert the reality and universality of spiritual communications; to place them on their deepest ground, to shew how utterly dreary man's condition would be without them. When we see a fanatical exaltation of human faculties, then most shall we be eager to assert their worth and sacredness; to vindicate them from all aspersions grounded upon the imperfections which attach to them in this world; to maintain that he who refuses them the noblest cultivation despises and blasphemes the Author of them. And that the truths proclaimed by raving Sects and by Idolaters of the Intellect may both be preserved, we shall bring them into fellowship. The communication of the divine Spirit we shall believe to be the only means whereby the Reason, the Heart, the Understanding, are enabled to per
form their rightful functions, to be vigorous, calm, pure, in harmony with the mind of the Creator, and with all that is truly human. Holding all power as a trust, every office as a stewardship, believing that the divine Spirit itself who dwells with us is the greatest trust, the most awful stewardship, we shall feel more the glory of our race because we feel more our own insignificance; shall be more really men, because we walk more humbly with our God.
PART II.-LECTURE IV.
The early preaching of the Gospel-how it affected Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Goths. Form of this preaching. Resistance from the doctrine of an Evil Principle. Mahometan protest against it, and for the sacredness of the outward world. Hindoo protest on behalf of a divine kingdom. Buddhist protest for an actual Indwelling Spirit. Modern infidel protest for humanity. Christianity established by all. Conclusion.
N former Lectures I have considered the relation in which Christianity stands to the existing religious systems of the world, to Mahometanism, Hindooism, Buddhism. In this, the last Lecture of the course, I ought, according to the plan which I laid down for myself, to consider in what relation it stands to those which I called the defunct systems-those of ancient Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Gothic world. But it will strike you at once that this subject has, in a great measure, been anticipated.
I could not allude to the facts which justified my use of the word defunct, in reference to these religions, without indicating the kind of influence which Christianity had exercised over them. I was obliged to tell you that the worship of the god of Light in Greece, the state religion of Rome, the worship of Odin amongst the Goths, had given way before the preaching of the Crucified Son of God. I could not omit to notice the way in which the Gospel had established itself in the
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Greek cities of Egypt, or the influence it had received from the culture previously existing in them, or the resistance it had met with in the country districts where the old Egyptian doctrine had its strongest hold. I could not but speak of that revival of the Persian faith, which took place in the second century of the Christian era, of the obstruction which that faith offered to the Gospel, of its remarkable re-action upon some of the teachers of the Gospel. I should have no excuse for travelling again over this ground, though the observation we took of it was so rapid and superficial, were it not that the facts to which I have just alluded, taken in connexion with those which have engaged our attention already, suggest painful doubts to the mind, doubts closely related to those which it has been the object of the whole course to examine.
The aspect of Christianity in the first ages, notwithstanding the exceptions which I have noticed, is that of a youthful, growing, victorious doctrine; its roots laid in the depths; its branches spreading over the earth, and reaching to heaven. But then came Mahometanism, utterly exterminating that Persian doctrine with which the Christian teachers had so unsuccessfully fought; bringing Egypt, great part of Asia, and a section of Europe, under its yoke. When we studied the history of this faith, we learnt that it had conquered much from the Gospel, and had scarcely, through twelve centuries, yielded to any permanent impression from it. The latter assertion is almost