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our attention; and both are formidable, the one from its numbers, the other from the ability with which the materials necessary to form a judgment on the subject are collected and examined.
The first consists of that large division of persons who have learnt to consider the harmless man, especially if somewhat humane in his disposition, as being nearly every thing that should be expected from humanity; and who, were it not for such unseemly relations as are supplied by the Newgate calendar, the reports of battles, and the traffic in human flesh, would see comparatively little in the moral state of the world to affect them with disquietude. But the other class, with quite as little religion as the parties just adverted to, and, perhaps, with somewhat less amiableness, see in human nature a far different object of contemplation. Putting the thought of religious obligation altogether aside, they speak of the heart of man in terms as little flattering to it as could well be imagined. They have passed below the surface of human life, and have bent their attention on the working of the passions, and on the mysteries of motive, until, instead of concluding that what is good in effect must have been good in its cause, they have learnt to regard all effects with suspicion; so strong has their conviction become, as to the general viciousness both of the reasoning, and of the feeling, by which the actions of men are governed.
These persons, who may be described as
belonging to the school of Machiavel, Richelieu, or Rochefoucault, are not often troubled about the authority of scripture; but it is plain that they cannot very fairly quarrel with it on account of its lessons concerning the extent of human depravity. The philosophic infidel, or the reflecting man who should not perhaps be so designated, after all the indulgences which they may exclude from the catalogue of offences, cannot fail to look on the present condition of their species as one of almost indescribable turpitude and unhappiness. The imbecile may not see this, and may become quiescent Pharisees, as the consequence. But where there is most of the capableness of thinking, there will this painful truth be most fully admitted.
The Christian judges more meanly of the present state of human nature than the first of these classes, and not less so than the second. He thinks more meanly of it than the one, in consequence of holding larger views in regard to the extent of human obligation;-his more humbling conceptions, in reference to the present condition of man, being the natural effect of his more extended perceptions with respect to the unalterable glories of his Maker. It is this, also, which constrains him, even when candour and benevolent feeling have done their utmost, to admit the general truth of that severe estimate of human character which the shrewder class of worldly men have been compelled to form;-and to form,
without meaning it, in confirmation of scripture testimony.
But it must not be omitted, that these conclusions are connected in the mind of the Christian with views as to the original state of our nature, and its ultimate destiny, peculiar to himself. While gazing on it as a vast and awful ruin, he has the most impressive remembrances of its departed glory; and, with a feeling of triumph, can anticipate its restored greatness. The desolation of the present is all before him; but the past, and the future, lend something of their lights to dissipate its illusions, and to render the strange vision more affecting and hopeful. The interest felt in exploring the mouldering remains of ancient cities, is not derived from what the eye can rest upon; but, rather, from the memory of what is no longer seen. In the condition which has long been that of the professors of Judaism, there is little, considered in itself, to awaken sympathy. But how different the feeling with which these scattered outcasts are regarded, when we remember what their remote forefathers were, and what their descendants are yet to be! It is an interest of this kind which possesses the mind of the Christian, and is peculiar to him, when meditating amid the present ruins of humanity.
To this it may be objected, that Christianity, considered as a remedial scheme, has been but very partially applied; affording, accordingly, but a very partial relief under the gloom which
present appearances have so strong a tendency to produce. This, however, will not appear to be so great a difficulty if we regard the atonement made by the second Adam, as extending its efficacy to all who die in infancy, since these alone, constitute the majority of our race. Were it otherwise, the regret, or surprise, occasioned by the fact adverted to, ought not to favour any sceptical conclusion. Of the seeds scattered by the wind, each one of which, if falling in a proper soil, would supply a flower, a plant, or a tree, how great is the number which, from seeming accident, remain wholly fruitless? Of those which begin to vegetate, how many are destroyed in the bud, cut off in their spring-time, or otherwise prevented from reaching maturity? How often do the rains and snows, which come down from heaven, fall as an apparent waste? How many of nature's bounties spring up, and disappear, without answering any manifest purpose?
Such blessings Nature pours;
O'erstock'd mankind enjoy but half her stores;
In distant wilds, by human eyes unseen,
She rears her flowers, and spreads her velvet green;
Pure gurgling rills the lonely desert trace,
And waste their sweetness on the desert race.
And as to natural remedies, or the means of counteracting disease, nature has always contained those which we now possess,-but how long were most of them undiscovered? By how small a section of the human family, even now, are they
adequately known? And how many are the contingencies that may serve to impair their efficiency, to render them useless, or even greatly injurious? It is the same with the mind. All men must be viewed as partaking, upon the whole, of the same capableness, with respect to the intelligence and the virtues which it is agreed to honour. But in these respects, how few are they who resemble the tree planted by rivers of water, bearing its fruit in its season?
Thus there is a frequent abortiveness, and a seeming partiality, in the whole system of things with which we connect the hand of the Deity, not at all less remarkable than are those which men frequently urge as an argument against Christianity. Indeed, to contend that if the means of salvation be sent to any, they should be sent equally to all, is to insist that we should all possess, not only a strict sameness of capacity, but a sameness of evidence, and of whatever else may possibly influence the decision of the mind with respect to the divine message. It is scarcely necessary to add, or rather to repeat, that the advantages of natural religion, in whatever they may be said to consist, are far from being placed under this kind of guardianship,-from being subject to this equal distribution.